I’d heard the sip sip (thats Bahamian for ‘gossip’ for those not in the know) on Keese’s for a while now. The wraps, pitas and fried chicken are supposed to be dynamite. So it was high time I investigated and I am pleased to say I was not disappointed. Keese’s American-Mediterranean Grill has been around since 1953. It is located in a tiny little space on A1A just south of Commercial Blvd., in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea. The kitchen and service area takes up about half of the space. There are about 6 tables to eat at inside or just outside the open doors. Since it is located two blocks from the beach, its the ideal spot to grab a snack after a long day of doing nothing but swimming and sunning. There are a few parking spots out front in case you want to pick up or pop in for a meal.
The menu is large. Like really big. You’re going to have a tough time narrowing down your choice just accept that. At a Mediterranean grill you’ll feel obliged to try something well, Mediterranean – a falafel perhaps, or a kebab, or better yet one of their several varieties of shawarma. Shawarma is an arabic form of meat preparation. You’ve seen it in restaurants before – meat such as lamb, chicken, beef or some combination of them is slowly roasted on a vertical spit and carved off typically into a pita or as part of a platter.
On this particular visit, Keese’s had chicken shawarma available and we opted on Keese’s Special Shawarma – at the friendly owner’s suggestion. Shaved pieces of chicken shawarma were sliced and rolled into a flat bread along with pickles and garlic sauce, once wraped, the pita was placed between a hot press. The wrap was served with lettuce and tomatoes and 3 sauces – hummus, babaganoush and tzatziki (yogurt cucumber sauce). The combination of the fresh chicken and pickles was refreshingly simple and delicious. I’m not a huge fan of pickles in general but the pickles made this chicken wrap the unique wrap that it was. A spoonful of each sauce was sufficient for dipping the wrap and crispy fries into and you wont need to ask for more.
Wanting to try something different, we also ordered the Kufta kebab – a char grilled patty of ground lamb and beef minced with minced onion and parsley as well as a touch of cinnamon (which the owner was surprised we identified for some reason). The kebab was served in a pita with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pickles and tzatziki. While I found the kebab to be really tasty, I found the cinnamon to be a tad too present and the kebab in general a bit heavy for a warm day at the beach. Maybe I would have enjoyed it more had I had it for dinner with a glass of red wine. Yes, I think that would have worked better.
Regardless of my lack of enthusiasm over the Kufta kebab, this is definitely not a reason to stay away from Keese’s. As I watched the gorgeous plates of salads and wraps produced by the kitchen picked up by other customers, it became clear that Keese’s has been around since 1953 for good reason – it produces quality food. Actually, what it is best known for is its southern fried chicken. The owner said it is their best selling dish on a menu that’s pages long. The original owners (from 1953) developed the recipe and had it on their menu for years. Later on it was taken off the menu by subsequent owners. When the current owners purchased it in 2003, the original owners stopped by and gave them the chicken receipe and ta da – the chicken was back. I watched the owner and her cook fry and unload a serving of their famous fried chicken. It looks perfectly fried and crispy. Two young men came in and asked for a few pieces – first time customers like moi – and as the two lads tucked into their meal, they barely spoke a word to each other. I heard a lot of mmmm’ing and grunting but no words. A quiet meal is a sign of a good meal – unless you’re with a mute.
Finally, saving the best for last, I would be doing you a disservice if I did not tell you about the house made lemonade the owner encouraged us to have for an extra $1.50 with our meal. The lemonade was equally tart and sweet, and fluffy and frothy (how’s that for some adjectives). But best of all, it was chock full of finely diced fresh mint that elevated this drink to my favorite ever! (Well not ever, but this week for sure.) I swear I tasted basil in there but the owner denied it. I’ve not had anything like it before and honestly its reason enough to go back to Keese’s. I would purchase a gallon of this every day if she let me… come to think of it, I may have to arrange this on my next visit. You should negotiate this deal for yourself as well….
3 out of 5 forks. (5 out of 5 for the lemonade alone though)
Keese’s, 4350 N. Ocean Drive, Fort Lauderdale, Florida