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A few weeks back I was tearing up a plate of masgouf at the two-month-old Shawarma Inn on the Budlong Woods stretch of Lincoln Avenue. Masgouf is Iraqi-style grilled river fish (in this case, catfish), a dish that when executed well crisps up the exterior skin but leaves the interior flesh, moist and glistening with its own voluptuous fat. At the moment I can't seem to get enough of it.
But I wasn't so focused that I failed to notice a photograph on the wall from a Smithsonian article about ethnic food in Chicago. It showed George Koril standing in the window of his George's Kabab Grill.
George's is one of a handful of Assyrian Iraqi hangouts on its particular block of Lawrence Avenue, but it has an interesting polyglot clientele as described in this loving tribute.
I got a similar vibe at Shawarma Inn among the white seniors, African cabbies, stout middle-aged Iraqi dudes, all tucking into Middle Eastern standards like keababs, shawarma, hummus, lamb kalaya, the flat bulgur-and-minced beef pancake kubba mosul, and of course masgouf. On my way out I asked the owner what connection he had to George's on Lawrence.
"It's mine," he said, indicating the photo. "What? That doesn't look like me?" It didn't actually, not at first, but I squinted and well, OK, I guess it did.
Then, last night, I was strolling down Kedzie, just past the empty storefront once occupied by City Noor Kabab until it was gutted by fire. Earlier this summer a Middle Eastern sweet shop moved in, opened for a few days, then disappeared, but almost overnight it seemed someone had rearranged the entire interior, installed a couple of shawarma spits, and hung the sign you see above.
I stopped in for menu and asked about the connection to George's right around the corner. "That's my brother," said the owner. "I'm the real George."
Anyway, there's a new George's in town. And it opens today. They're serving just about what you'd expect—shawerma and falafel, but with two important differences—no masgouf and no kubba mosul.
George's Pita Kabob, 4714 N Kedzie, 773-442-8900
George's Kabab Grill, 3216 W Lawrence, 773-588-1800
Shawarma Inn, 5523 N. Lincoln, 773-271-7777