Blah. Browser crashed after hitting "Post", so here's a summary:
Sphinx Cafe, Niles.
Roadhouse-look from the outside. Scary. Fake-neon sign over restrooms. Blacklights as decor. Hookah as decor on the walls, but operational hookah for guests on the bar. Fake-linen vinyl tablecloths, fake linen paper placemats. Paper napkins flared in a beer glass as a centerpiece.
Half empty. Eastern European women running the front of the house: a cute, harried, young blonde waitressing all the tables and a larger, matronly woman behind the empty bar. Clearly turns into a nightclub in the evenings, with a large dancefloor and room for a live band/dj.
Felafel ($1.95 for 3, about the diameter of an eisenhower silver dollar and the height of a hockey puck). Fresh from the fryer, crisp on the outside, aromatic, wonderfully seasoned, very nice.
Lentil soup ($1.95 for a cup that was clearly at least 2 cups). Look and consistency of greek egg-lemon soup. I burned my tongue on it. My mom had almost all of it and liked it a lot, although it needed salt.
Hummus ($3.95). Very good also. Smooth, creamy, good tahini flavor. Fresh lemon juice squeezed on the top, olive oil drizzled on the top, garnished with a little parsley and some tomato/onion/cucumber salad in the center. Very similar to the hummus at noon-o-kabab, and just as good.
Pita (free) - The pita that came with the hummus and felafel was weird, but good. It was kind of like garlic-bread-pita, since it had been brushed with butter and garlic and put on a grill to heat through. Tasty, and went well with the hummus.
Mom's entree: Lamb kabobs ($12.95, more expensive than any of the other kabob entrees). Off-skewer, in a circle around a dome of yellowish rice. Lamb was good, well marinated, but cooked all the way through. I would have preferred a nice medium or medium rare. Had some char flavor in parts, less in others. Overall quite tasty.
My entree: Combination plate ($13.95). Chicken, Beef, Kifta, and Shawerma (lamb and beef variety), all off skewer/etc, surrounding a dome of yellow rice. Chicken: stellar. Juicy, nicely seasoned, not dried out as white meat can get. Beef: well marinated like the lamb, but also cooked through. Would have been much better cooked medium rare. Kifta: Also very good, well seasoned, juicy. Not as good as noon-o-kabobs kifta, but very good anyway. Shawerma: very good, nicely seasoned and prepared, but paled in comparison to the tawook/kifta/shish kabobs.
Entrees came with non-garliced grilled pita.
The only disappointment was the rice, which was poorly cooked and bland.
Accompanying as garnishes were the "house sauce" (tahini, homemade yogurt, and lemon juice) and "hot sauce", which was incredibly spicy and would please any chilihead. An amount equaling about 2 grains of rice was enough to have me gasping for water and hummus to cool my mouth. It was a very dark green and fairly chunky, kind of like giardinera put in a cuisinart. But much hotter, and far less liquidy.
Anyway, everything was surprisingly good (except the rice), and definitely worth a visit if you live nearby or are in the area. They're open for lunch and dinner sunday through monday, and turn into a nightclub from 10pm-4am on those same days.
Food: Very Good
Napkins as a centerpiece: Weird.
8743 N. Milwaukee Ave. (Near the corner of Dempster and Milwaukee)
Niles, IL 60714
www.sphinxcafe.com (includes some coupons)