University City

Tour buses offer taste of the world

Nabeil Alnatsheh cooked for former First Lady Laura Bush and other dignitaries during 10 years as a chef at the American embassy in the Arab nation Jordan.

He has put aside the hors d'oeuvres of coconut shrimp and smoked salmon canapés since coming to Charlotte four years ago.

Now he is working to perfect - and celebrate - the cuisine of his native Jerusalem as chef at La Shish Kabob, a six-month-old casual Middle Eastern restaurant at 3117 North Sharon Amity Road in east Charlotte.

Next month he'll get an important chance to introduce diners to his cooked-to-order kabobs and pita sandwiches, as well as tabbouleh salad and pastries made with phyllo dough.

La Shish Kabob will be one of the 15 or so restaurants on this year's Taste of the World international restaurant tour.

Fifteen buses will roll out for the ninth annual event on Oct. 6, giving each ticket holder the chance to sample from the menu at three locations.

Restaurants selected for the tour have earned an A sanitation rating from the local health department.

The buses will stop along Central Avenue, Sharon Amity, Albemarle Road and Independence Boulevard for flavors of Africa, Asia, China, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean.

There will be Serbian food at Intermezzo Pizzeria, Vietnamese at Ben Thanh and Lang Van, Chinese small plates at Dim Sum, Indian-Chinese fusion at Fu Lin Asian Cuisine, and Latin recipes at Carnitas Guanajuato and Three Amigos.

Other stops include the Landmark Diner, Foskoskies Neighborhood Cafe, Mama's Caribbean Grill, and vegetarian Indian food at Woodlands.

Alnatsheh says bringing the tour buses to La Shish Kabob might also draw attention to other businesses in the area that offer Middle Eastern foods.

Within the same city block, there are two markets that sell halal meats, which are processed according to Islamic traditions. The markets supply chicken, lamb and beef for La Shish Kabob.

A Middle Eastern market and a second Middle Eastern restaurant, Aly Baba, are in an adjacent strip mall. A Middle Eastern bakery is scheduled to open this month at the same location.

"This area is getting famous for this type of food," Alnatsheh said.

Organizers say the tour is also worthwhile as a cultural event. Merchants and workers in the restaurants often share colorful stories about their homeland and their journey to the United States.

"This is an opportunity to have an experience of tasting food from unique areas of the world," said Louise Woods, co-chair, Eastland Area Strategies Team. "Charlotte just doesn't have anything like this anywhere else."