This Hole-in-the-Wall Life

Peaceful Persian. Photo by Jonathan Ho

Behold the following scene, a day after Christmas, in Laguna Niguel: a muscular white male arguing with a Latina cook over a muffed order of Persian food.
The tiff occurred at GRILL HUT, a clean, well-lit room consisting of a counter, a kitchen, a couple of tables, a Snapple case and a soda fountain.

I didn't pay much attention to the fight at first, busy as I was using triangles of toasted pita bread to scoop through a canister of mast-o-khiar, a yogurt-cucumber-mint dip that freshens every pore of your being. I saved a bit of the mast-o-khiar to pour over a steaming dome of basmati rice that arrived within minutes. The rice accompanied one of the greatest steak kebabs of my life—glistening, medium-rare chunks I ripped apart with effortless nibbles. The Latino cooks in the kitchen judiciously punctuated the meat with grilled onions, bell peppers and tomatoes; each lent different notes of vegetable charm. Perhaps it was the Latino cooks, but the kebab was spicier than usual for Persian food, with each steak and veggie mass dusted with sumac. Not a problem: droplets of sweat on the cheeks are good for your countenance.

The tiny room bustled with the noise of diners enjoying Grill Hut's limited menu. Some chomped on substantial wraps loaded with vegetables; others contented themselves with a koobideh kebab: ground beef mixed with egg into a fluffy mass. People ordered salmon and chicken kebabs to go. Most sipped on sodas—I washed my meal down with dough, the Persian yogurt drink that's like minty curdled milk. We ate in peace.

But the pitched back-and-forth between the white male and the Latina eventually made the rest of us pay attention. Seems the customer wanted a bigger order of hummus than the combo meal offered but didn't want to pay the extra two dollars. The Latina insisted he pay the extra cash; the white man—probably of Italian descent, he was swarthier than I and looked like a slimmer Paul Giamatti—grew increasingly agitated.

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"Let me talk to your manager," he finally demanded. "He's not here—I'm in charge," the Latina responded, her face creased with a humble smile of triumph. The customer scowled. He grumbled something below his breath, shelled out some change, got his supersized hummus and went outside to eat.

GRILL HUT, 27020 ALICIA PKWY., LAGUNA NIGUEL, (949) 831-7380.

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Grill Hut

27020 Alicia Parkway
Aliso Viejo, CA 92656


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