[Monday Munchies:] The Kebab Place (Getting Irie With a Marley)

Courtesy of the Kebab Place

During the mid to late nineties, you could always tell how my Saturday was going to end up by listening to the music that my mother was playing around 9 a.m. If I was lucky enough to hear the delicate sounds of Sting, gently caressing my earlobes while reassuring me that we would someday walk in fields of gold, I knew that I had a free ticket to either sleep in or play video games to my heart’s content. However, if I opened my eyes and heard the familiar sound of organs and bongos, I knew that my weekend was about to be filled with an unending list of chores that would make Cinderella seem lazy. I don’t know what it is about the otherwise tranquil music that we call reggae, but for my mother it was the soundtrack to our spring (weekly) cleaning.

One singer who always happened to pop up on my mother’s playlists during these everlasting bouts of mind numbing tasks is a man who needs little introduction when considering his lineage in the reggae scene. Stephen Marley, son of a semi-famous songwriter named Bob, has been making waves in the music industry since the seventies, and after seeing his current list of tour dates it would appear obvious that he has no intentions of stopping anytime soon. Apart from making incredibly nostalgic albums that seem to pick up where his father left off, Marley continues to push the music scene forward by collaborating with artists such as Capleton and Buju Banton to blend his own unique style of reggae and dancehall.

Last week, while searching for yet another meal to document while getting higher than my credit score, I received a text from someone who happens to be close to the Marley family asking if I wanted to see him perform at the Garden Amp in Garden Grove and then sit down with him afterwards to talk about cannabis. By the time the phone call was finished, my mind was racing with ideas. Would I join Marley on a spiritual journey with ganja? Or would I finally take my rightful place in reggae history as the man who out smoked a Marley? Only time would tell.

The day of the event came and I was feeling about as irie as any white kid from the desert could. Before making my way toward Garden Grove, a city that I’ve managed to avoid for numerous reasons, I knew that I needed a proper meal to line my stomach before my inevitable nosedive into a much higher state. Downtown Santa Ana has enough eateries, cafés, and taco trucks to appease even the pickiest of diners, but on that day I was feeling so close to Jah that filling my temple with my usual intake of trash food seemed like it would only cheapen my unusually high spirits. As I walked down Fourth Street’s brick-lined sidewalk, I decided to go Mediterranean. Hey, if it was good enough for God’s only child then it’s good enough for me.

The Kebab Place opened several years ago with little to no fanfare. After changes in ownership, menu selections and a year of me forgetting that the establishment even existed, I was was excited to return to my favorite spot to eat like John Stamos before getting lit like one of the Olsen twins. Once I arrived at my destination, it was clear that the Kebab Place I remembered was gone and in its place was a restaurant that took every expectation I had and improved it.

John Stamos approved! Photo courtesy of The Kebab Place.

Rok Jazayeri took over operations around October of last year and after securing the lease and receiving the keys to the kingdom, he began to implement his own signature style of health conscious cuisine from the ground up. Every spice, sauce and side is prepared in-house that day. Meats are sourced from only organic, reputable farms using sustainable methods and nothing is ever frozen. According to Jazayeri, using only the highest quality halal products is what sets them apart from the endless amount of Mediterranean options Orange County residents enjoy. My chicken platter was delicious, the meat was tender, juicy and seasoned to perfection while the basmati rice provided the necessary amount of starch and butter without weighing down the meal. After thanking Rok and finishing their house-made baklava (a must-have), I begrudgingly merged onto the 22 freeway’s infamous traffic and arrived at the amphitheater with no time to spare.

Stephen Marley played to a packed house filled to the brim with dreadlocked men in sandals. After plowing through a set list that read like a greatest hits album of his entire catalogue, Marley played some of his dad’s well known songs while everyone in attendance collectively lost their minds. I’ve written about my thoughts on this before so I’ll save my opinions for another time; besides, I was feeling great due to the potent mix of cannabis and halal meat, and reggae music tends to make even the meanest person relax. So I waited for the end of the show and my chance to get a smoke session in with a legend while people watching and sneaking hits from my Sherbinskis vaporizer.

Waiting in vain isn’t just a song written by Bob; it was actually a prophecy about my life on the night of Sept. 12. I sat patiently while swarms of white mothers tried to desperately get their moment with Stephen. When my turn finally came, I greeted the Rasta legend. The following is a transcript of our very in-depth interview.

Jeff: Hello Stephen, I’m here to talk to you about cannabis. Is there anything you’d like to say about your experience with the plant?

Stephen Marley: What gwan now?

Uhmm, I’m here reviewing your show and I’m wondering if you’d like to talk about it?

You wan a photograph now den?


Rasta’s hate flash photography. Photo By Jefferson VanBilliard

Stephen must be a master in avoidance because he was gone faster than a spliff in Jamrock. I stood there, feeling the hot sting of failure while Shaggy’s “Boombastic” blared over the loudspeaker, and made a silent promise to myself that I would never go to Garden Grove again unless it’s to get rid of my change at Nickle! Nickle!

In the end, I guess I can’t blame Stephen for not knowing who I am. He’s a busy Rastaman with eight children. I would, however, encourage everyone to eat a meal at the Kebab Place and tell Rok that Jefferson says hi. Happy Smoking!

The Kebab Place, 306 W. Fourth St., Santa Ana, (714) 953-8444; kebab-place.com.

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