Less than a year after opening, the Waldoboro takeout joint is spreading its Middle Eastern–inspired dishes around the state.
Bowls of turmeric rice with lamb kofta (right) and the Best Brussels Ever (left).
By Virginia M. Wright Photographed by Jason A. Frank
Shane McGarvey’s mind never rests, so he carries a palm-size notebook to capture the many ideas for cooking and serving food that flow through his head. Standing inside Maine Kebab, his eight-month-old venture in downtown Waldoboro, the chef pulls the notebook from his pocket and riffles pages scrawled with annotated drawings. Last spring, after the pandemic sidelined the catering and events business he runs on his farm, he got antsy. “I needed something to sink my teeth into,” he says. “I had a food concept I’d written down a few years ago, with notes for this specific place.”
Maine Kebab’s signature dish is kofta — ground lamb mixed with McGarvey’s secret seasoning blend, rolled into a log, then grilled, sliced, and served with a mound of herby chopped tomatoes and cucumbers atop turmeric-accented rice. A drizzle of house-made yogurt sauce or chili ketchup provides the finishing touch. Like most everything else on the menu of Middle Eastern–style street food, the kofta is full-flavored and filling — and it travels well, whether the dinner table is five minutes away or sixty, which is a particularly useful attribute in a state where kofta is a rare encounter.
To-go meals aren’t Maine Kebab’s pandemic survival plan; they are the plan. “We want to be everyone’s favorite take-out place,” McGarvey says. And not only here in Waldoboro. When I visited, McGarvey and his business partner, Jeffrey Hurd, were ready to open a second location, now open in Rockland, and had just returned from a scouting trip to Augusta for a third. They envision even more Maine Kebabs, all following the model set by the Waldoboro shop.
Hurd owns the building (as well as the nearby Narrows Tavern), and McGarvey had long fancied the spot, a former pizza parlor, just one room divided into a kitchen and a pickup area. The only seating is outdoors, on a deck furnished with picnic tables. “We always intended to expand, so we designed a simple menu and an online ordering system that’s easily duplicated,” McGarvey says. “We want it to be simple enough that we can hire teenagers to do it.”
Green Bee natural sodas, from Brunswick, and fruity Spindrift sparkling waters are light and refreshing accompaniments to Maine Kebab’s grilled meats.
All orders must be placed and paid for online. Maine Kebab will text when the order is accepted, when it’s being prepared, and when it’s ready.
Maine Kebab’s menu is a build-your-own affair that revolves around six proteins: lamb kofta, beef brisket, grilled chicken, fried tofu, fried Halloumi cheese, and fried pork belly (the latter, McGarvey concedes, is “a little over the top”). Each can be wrapped in griddled flatbread or served atop turmeric rice or baby greens. They can also fortify bowls of hummus and spiced French fries. On the “snack” section of the menu, Best Brussels Ever — addictive flash-fried sprouts with crispy, charred exteriors — is easily shared two or three ways. Everything except the sprouts is also available as a side order. Dessert is baklava — flaky layers of filo sticky with honey and chopped nuts.
This is casual, inexpensive food, but made by people with fine-dining backgrounds. At Applecroft Catering, on his Waldoboro farm, McGarvey roasts feasts of organic local meats and vegetables over an open fire. For 15 years before joining Maine Kebab as executive chef, Ken Hynes cooked in upscale restaurants in Napa Valley, North Carolina, and, more recently, Camden, at mainstays 40 Paper and Natalie’s. Dustin Shockley, whose résumé includes stints in the kitchens of Portland’s Sur Lie and Solo Italiano, works alongside Hynes.
The inspiration for Maine Kebab is the sidewalk halal food carts that serve heaping portions of lamb, rice, and greens in New York City, where McGarvey worked for several years as a private chef. “A lot of them don’t even open until 2 a.m., which is when the restaurant workers are going home,” he says. “This is the comfort food that New York chefs live on. I was missing it. So why not open a place that serves the food I want to eat?”