One of my most appreciated, but thoroughly rare types of food experiences is the family atmosphere. No offense to your neighboring Applebee’s or IHOP, but “family restaurant” doesn’t typically carry a favorable connotation. If you read my Nick & Stef’s Steakhouse Reflection, you’ll know that even upscale restaurants can feel like home. My family was never big on red meat, and they also aren’t Mediterranean, but both Nick & Stef’s and Raffi’s Place make me feel at home.
Raffi’s Place, located in Glendale, is comfortably tucked away near Broadway & Brand, across the street from the ever-popular Americana shops. “Tucked” may be the wrong word – it might as well be buried. The surrounding area is a formidable jungle of restaurants, a jam-packed Amazon truck where Raffi’s Place is the 40% off panini press you bought on Black Friday. Understand that Glendale is itself a central middle Eastern hub of Southern California, and it’s no surprise that competition is stiff: think Carousel, Panini Kabob Grill, Shiraz, Mediterranean Delight, etc. How do they manage to stand out?
Apart from Carousel’s nighttime fare, the bustle in Raffi’s indoor-outdoor hybrid environment is as unique as you’ll find in the area (and it doesn’t cost $47 to experience it!). The surprisingly large seating area and bright, striped awnings lend themselves perfectly to large groups. I felt like I was attending a patio party for a distant cousin’s graduation.
After ordering our entrees, we also ordered two Abali yogurt soda (doogh) drinks for the first time. Our waiter was kind enough to show us how to delicately open the drinks so it wouldn’t runneth over from the carbonation: horizontally, and over the glass. Teach a man to fish, and all that. Whereas Asian yakult drinks trend sweeter and often fruitier, the Abali was light and tangy, and the mint-flavored one was especially refreshing in summer.
The food itself was equally pleasant. Jane, my forever food adventure companion, ordered the barg kabob (thinly sliced filet mignon) and I ordered the boneless chicken kabob. Raffi’s is on the pricier side – our dishes were $23 and $19, respectively. Their website emphasizes the hand-picked, hand-seasoned meats and the home-cooked freshness of their ingredients; the quality indeed shines through. The chicken is equal parts fresh, charred, and tangy citrus, tender and bursting with flavor and color. The rice, though, is pretty remarkable on its own. I was initially intimidated by the imposing heap rice that was given to me, but I’ve never failed to finish it – it’s so light and fluffy that I’m almost convinced it doesn’t contain a single calorie in its entirety. And whereas I’ve viewed the grilled tomatoes in other Middle Eastern places as garnishes (basically like the fake green grass in bento boxes), I find myself painstakingly portioning my vegetables from Raffi’s without even thinking. Maybe it’s how great the kabobs are that makes me appreciate their company. Who knows?
In a sense, Raffi’s Place is an oasis in the Glendale area that continues to trend hipster. Big names like Din Tai Fung and Shake Shack may continue to propogate around Brand, but the food and homestyle atmosphere will make Raffi’s Place a mainstay of the area for years to come.
Appreciation: I can’t decide between the cloud-like rice, the Abali and our waiter’s bottle-opening ritual, or, I’m dead serious, the grilled tomato. It’s delicious. It’s irreplaceable. I may have ate Jane’s.
211 E. Broadway
Glendale, CA 91205