by The Journal Review Team

There are a number of new restaurants popping up in Humboldt County. Unfortunately, one of them came and went before we got a chance to get our review into print. That was the short-lived Blue Marlin Grill in the Redwood Village Shopping Center in Fortuna. What looked like a rather ordinary strip mall coffee shop from the outside turned out to be a classy, uptown grill featuring chicken, steaks and a good selection of fresh seafood. Sorry to see it go.

We have been a frequent visitor lately to another shopping center delight -- this one tucked away in the Valley West Shopping Center in Arcata -- called the Kabob Café. It is a real find for those of us who sometimes need to eat on the run or are just too tired to cook.

A small, brightly lit cafe decorated with posters from Turkey, the Kabob Café features gyros, kabobs and kufti -- traditional Turkish grilled dishes -- served as dinner plates or sandwiches.

The concept for Kabob Café has been transplanted from London's stand-up "Donner Kabob" kiosks where one finds similar food as a take-away. Owner/chef Simon Beyzade, who was raised in London, has produced a pretty credible Humboldt County version.

Gyros are sandwiches using pita bread and filled with slices of specially seasoned beef that rotates in front of a broiler. They are traditionally served with tziziki, a yogurt-based dressing with garlic, onion and cucumber. But, with a nod to California's multiculturalism, you can even choose salsa as a dressing for your gyro!

Kabobs are cubes of lamb, pork, chicken or vegetables grilled on a skewer. The lamb kufti is seasoned ground lamb, pressed into a patty on a skewer. Those at Kabob Café are about the best you'll have -- either here or in London.

Hamburgers and cheeseburgers are also offered, if you are not feeling adventurous. Prices range from $3.25 to $5.75. Rice pilaf or french fries are available, and you should not miss having baklava for dessert.

There are sodas and juices to drink. Hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.

Although not exactly new, another restaurant has recently reopened with a new name, new menu, new management and a spectacular facelift in the location of the old Reyes y Casas Viejas at First and Q streets in Eureka.

Now owned by the same family that owns the Waterfront Cafe, Casa Blanca has updated some of the old Mexican menu items and added Spanish ones as well. Here you can choose from tapas and paella as well as chimichangas.

We've only been there once so far but we started with ceviche -- fresh fish marinated/cooked in lime juice and chilis -- which was quite good. We also had the Sopa de Tortilla ($4.50), a rich tomato and chicken broth presented in a small tureen surrounded with avocado, onions, dried chilis, feta cheese and crispy tortilla strips. Okay, the feta should have been a Mexican queso, but it was tasty.

Salad offerings for lunch or a light supper are served with quesadillas (chicken, black bean and cheese) cut into wedges and dressed with a red chili vinaigrette. We tried the warm shrimp salad with a creamy cilantro dressing that was delicious.

We chose the paella as a main course. (You have to make reservations or call 30 minutes ahead for this dish.) This one-dish meal combines saffron-flavored rice with shrimp, clams, mussels, chicken and a spicy sausage, and vegetables. ($16.95, or a vegetarian version is just $11.95) The flavor was excellent, seafood fresh, but the veggies were overcooked. (Great paella often has few vegetables -- just pimientos, onions and such -- with a sprinkling of tiny peas at the last minute.)

Other intriguing Spanish offerings that we have yet to try include Costillas de Zumpango (charbroiled baby back pork ribs) and Alambre Mar y Tierra (a skewer combination of beef, chicken, prawns, peppers and onions).

One of the most pleasant surprises of this new/old place was the ambiance. Casa Blanca is a little difficult to find at 1436 Second Street, but it is located in a charming old remodeled house overlooking the harbor, a great spot.

The new owners have done a great job cleaning up the old jungle courtyard and removing whatever it was that was blocking the windows. It is pleasant to sit and watch the occasional truck or car passing over the Samoa Bridge and all the other sights of the bay.

Good luck to both of these new eateries. Stay tuned for more next month.


The Journal Review Team consists of four people who like to eat out a lot.

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