Sultan Kebab Shop is overhyped for Mediterranean food in Charlottesville

Charlottesville has many options for ethnic restaurants if you are trying to branch out from the usual American cuisine. After seeing it many times outside of the Downtown Mall, I decided to finally stop at Sultan Kebab to satisfy my pita bread and grilled chicken cravings. 

Located on 2nd St. Southeast, Sultan Kebab is a perfect location for any activity downtown. However, while there were aspects I enjoyed, I don’t think Sultan Kebab stands far above any of the other Mediterranean favorites in the Charlottesville area, and I had an underwhelming culinary experience there overall. 

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One of the first things I noticed about Sultan Kebab was the cheery exterior of the restaurant. Sitting on the corner of the street, Sultan Kebab is a pastel blue building that immediately catches the eye. Despite how bright and colorful the outside of the building was, I wasn’t as impressed with the decor inside. 

I went to lunch at noon on a Friday during a busy day downtown, but the restaurant felt too big and spacious for the small number of people there. However, there were many large windows, allowing for plentiful natural sunlight while you eat. Maybe I went at the wrong time of the day, but for noon on a busy Friday, the restaurant felt relatively empty. The seating in the restaurant is somewhat formal, with average-sized tables scattered around the room. 


Although Sultan Kebab is not too far from the University, it will most likely require driving in order to reach. I would estimate a roughly 30-minute walk from Old Dorms. I would recommend a short Uber ride or taking advantage of the free Charlottesville trolley. 

In terms of parking, they do not have their own parking lot. Water Street Garage and other outdoor pay-by-the-hour parking is nearby, but this is most likely a hassle for a quick lunch. Luckily though, the Water Street garage rarely fills up, so while it may be a bit of an inconvenience on your wallet, finding parking should rarely be an issue. Sultan Kebab is also wheelchair accessible. 


Everything on the menu was very affordable. The sandwiches and platters were all around $12, and the appetizers were roughly $5 to $8. Going with one other person, my visit to Sultan Kebab came out to a total of $36.40 for two appetizers and two platters. Overall, Sultan Kebab definitely does not break the bank.


Now to the most important part — the food. The first appetizer I tried at Sultan Kebab was the Yogurtlu Kizartma, which consists of fried eggplant, potatoes and green peppers served with garlic yogurt sauce and homemade pita bread. Recommended to us by the server, this appetizer was not anything extraordinary. While the sauce was good for dipping pita bread in, I don’t think that the blend of olive oil, yogurt sauce and vegetables went together very well. Secondly, I felt that their pita bread was too loaf-like, dense and dry. I am a huge fan of pita bread, and I think it goes perfectly with Mediterranean dishes, so the dry bread was underwhelming.

The next appetizer we ordered — also recommended by the server — was Lahmacun. This dish was described as a “thin and crispy pizza with ground beef, vegetables and herbs.” This was hands down my favorite dish at Sultan Kebab. The crispy, thin pizza was rich, savory and delicious to dip in olive oil. I found the consistency and texture of this pizza much more appetizing than the pita bread.

I ordered the Chicken Shish Kebab Platter for my main course — skewered pieces of marinated chicken breast, grilled and served with rice, salad, hummus and homemade pita bread. Again, with the same pita bread as before, I thought that it was dry, dense and did not live up to the thin consistency that pita bread tends to be. Nothing about the platter was bad, but nothing was great. The chicken was well-cooked but bland. I also felt there was not enough hummus to complement the dish. The salad was very simple, and the dressing was a vinagrette of some sort that again, did not impress me very much — it essentially seemed like lettuce leaves drenched in olive oil. 

Don’t get me wrong — this meal was by no means bad. However, I think there are better restaurants for both the price and flavor. While I believe everyone should expand their culinary horizons, I would not recommend Sultan Kebab as the place to do so. 


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