Scoop serves it up
Story and photos by Robin Elisabeth Kilmer
However you like your chicken, choices abound uptown.
There is chicken roasted, stewed and fried; there are wings, breasts or thighs; dark meat or light. You can choose from different gravies, and even find chicken lollipops.
A newcomer, Scoop Café, offers yet another option: chicken kebabs.
The Café might also might also be one of the few establishments in Washington Heights where Arabic is the de facto language.
John Dadourian is the new café’s manager and chef.
Much like his fellow residents in Northern Manhattan, Dadourian speaks several languages, and his story is one of many migrations. He was born to Armenian parents living in Aleppo, Syria. His father’s family came from Turkey, and immigrated to avoid genocide.
He speaks Turkish, Arabic, Armenian and English.
Of all these cultures and countries, the one most reflected in Scoop Café’s menu is the Syrian influence.
Syria is known as the kebab’s country of provenance, insisted Dadourian during a recent chat. The menu boasts a number of other Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes, including falafel and pizza.
But Dadourian’s favorite dish is the shish kebab.
“All the food, I do it with love, but my heart and my soul is in the shish kebab,” he said.
“We ate shish kebabs every Sunday when I was a kid.”
The shish kebab, either chicken or beef is marinated in a red pepper sauce, resulting in a zesty and gently tart flavor.
The dish is served with a creamy hummus, grilled onions and tomatoes and warm pieces of pita bread. The components are arranged in a neutral formation on your plate, inviting you do construct or deconstruct each forkful as you please, allowing you to develop a preferred combination.
Are tomatoes, onions and beef better with or without hummus? Tomato before onion or onion before tomato? How many pieces of beef can you fit on your fork and still have room for the next vegetable?
The possibilities for experimentation abound.
For those who are not hungry, Scoop Café is happy to fulfill the role as neighborhood café, offering reasonably priced coffee drinks, teas and refreshments, together with a menu brimming with options that aim to satisfy, whether you’re famished or just want a quick bite.
“We need to have a café in the neighborhood—a place where middle class people don’t have to pay $5 for a coffee,” said Dadourian.
Dadourian has lived in Washington Heights for 18 years. His first borough in New York City was the Bronx, where he lived with his brother when they first arrived from Syria in 1992.
Patrons (and sisters) Alba and Elisa Ureña enjoyed the space that Dadourian helped carve out, and enjoyed hummus, pita and lattes.
“I like having a healthy snack with my coffee,” marveled Elisa.
“It’s very cozy—it’s a welcoming atmosphere,” agreed Alba.
659 West 181st Street
(between Wadsworth Avenue and Broadway)
New York, NY 10033 212. 740.1700