Persian treats at Marietta's Shish Kabob 

I hung up the phone and a wave of anxiety rushed over me. My lunch date canceled and I was alone at Shish Kabob (962 Roswell Street, Marietta. 770-499-7399) with a deadline and a dilemma. I needed to figure out a way to get the lay of the land without blowing my cover by ordering a table full of dishes.

My eyes darted between the menu of Persian classics and the buffet ($10.99). I only had one choice and I was not happy about it. As I slid out of my seat and trudged towards the steam tables, a horror show of past buffets haunted me – the concept has always spelled disgusting in my experience. But that was all about to change.

With a name like Shish Kabob, your kabobs better be on point, and were they ever. Long cylinders of subtly seasoned ground beef were still remarkably juicy and smoky from the grill. You'd expect the charbroiled pieces of beef tenderloin to be dry, but these were oh-so-tender and flavorful from the "special" marinade. More amazingly, the pieces of boneless chicken were moist and slightly tangy with charred edges. Each meat dish was brightened with a swipe of the Must-o-Khiar, made with the most ridiculously creamy yogurt, crunchy cucumber and dried mint. The Adas Polo – perfumed white rice yellow from saffron and mixed with raisins, caramelized onions and al dente lentils – reinforced my deep love for Persian rice. Stews – most notably the slow-cooked mixture of beef, eggplant and tomato sauce – are at their best when the soft flat bread is used in lieu of a fork.

As I went back for thirds, I realized I'd been converted from my anti-steam table ways and enticed to return for dinner. How often does a lunch buffet accomplish that?

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