Sparty’s Kabob, now open on Trowbridge Road in the same plaza as Fresh Thyme, opened by Iraqi immigrant Rayan Hussein and his family, brings a distinct style of Middle Eastern cuisine to Greater Lansing.
Hussein moved to the United States in 2013, and previously owned restaurants in his home city of Mosul.
“We want to serve this community. There’s no Iraqi cuisine here in Lansing, a lot of local restaurants’ food is Lebanese,” Hussein said. “Iraqi and Lebanese food is very different — the spices are different. But there are many people interested in new things, and that’s why we decided to open a restaurant here.”
Sparty’s Kabob operates with a deli-style ordering system. Customers go down the line and customize their order with the various items on the menu. There are several entrée options. The Students’ Regular gets you two scoops of rice, salad, hummus, your choice of tandoori or grilled chicken and bean stew. The Students’ Special gets you an extra scoop of rice and your choice of any kind of meat. And then you have the larger options, Sparty’s Special and the Mixed Grill Plate, which gives you more meat and kabob — including lamb — in addition to a side of okra. You can also choose to stick with Iraqi falafel with grape leaves and fries.
Sparty’s Kabob also has a wide variety of vegetarian and vegan options. Of these choices, the vegan kabob is Hussein’s signature. “We’ve created a new item, the vegan kabob. It’s 100% veggies. There’s no fat and there’s no meat,” Hussein said.
Hussein said Sparty’s Kabob menu includes several special dishes that originate from Iraqi recipes, such as the Eggplant Salad, which includes cooked eggplant, tomatoes, onion, green peppers and cucumbers. All of the salads include sauce that “comes directly from Iraq” that packs a spicy, sour punch.
Sparty’s Kabob doubles as a bakery, and you can sample a range of traditional Middle Eastern desserts, as they are prepared in Iraq. The restaurant serves its own take on baklava, konafa, cheesecake and custard. You can also try out klecha, a quintessential sweet treat of Iraq. It’s a cookie stuffed with a sweet filling made with date and cardamom.
Hussein said the process of opening Sparty’s Kabob, which required several renovations to the building, took more than an entire year. Opening during a pandemic didn’t make matters easier either, as the citywide shutdown caused a delay in receiving the proper licenses from the health department.
“With COVID-19, it’s a hard time. We’re trying our best to make sure everything operates smoothly,” Hussein said. “We are working to keep everything sanitized; we keep the place clean and all of the food healthy.”
930 Trowbridge Road, East Lansing
Monday-Friday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Saturday-Sunday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
(517) 993-5150, spartyskabob.com