Mama's Kabab Is How Stanton Rolls

This is who I saw eating at Mama's Kabab the last I scarfed down a shawarma sandwich: a hipster gabacha and her black paramour. Armenian men and Muslim women in hijabs. Just a regular white guy and two Mexican families. A huge Chicano with a shaved head and tattoos covering his arms. Teenage girls. A Japanese-American dad whose son was still in his karate gi—and who got a fist bump from the ostensible Mama of the restaurant, the middle-aged woman who kept the business humming with the help of her Latina cook.

Mama's Kabab is Stanton at its finest: no pretension, working-class, delicious to its core, wildly multicultural—that's how the city rolls. The town comes out to feast at the small restaurant, where takeout is encouraged and a black velvet painting of Marilyn Monroe and Elvis in a Ford hot rod hangs near the restrooms. Armenian food is what draws in the crowds: heaps of rice alongside succulent kebabs or said meat wrapped inside pita bread, balanced with tahini sauce and pickled beets. Crunchy kibbe and greasy soujouk make great finger foods; the foul (fava beans in lemon juice and spices) is all about the hearty tart. Forgo the customary hummus and baba ghanoush in favor of spreads you're only getting here: mohamarra, a mild, walnut-based salsa enlivened with toasted pita crumbs is the hot sauce you never knew you needed. Even better is jajek, a strong cucumber yogurt that has a dusting of dried mint to tame the jajek's tang.

But Mama's isn't a temple to authenticity because that's not Stanton. A kid's menu finds hamburgers and French fries and even a tornado potato; order them, but also get some of their garlic sauce, a condiment so potent you can throw it on concrete to break it down. And ready to finish whatever meal you choose is a fresh tray of baklava, slices of which Mama will give away for free every once in a while just to excite her loyal customers—because that's how Mama rolls, and that's the Stanton way. Don't see Cypress doing that. . . .

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