The kebab is edible multiculturalism.
The Turkish street food came to Berlin along with a half-million immigrants, and is now a multibillion-dollar business in Germany. Kebabs are standard street food across Europe—pretty much everyone who's ever spent a long night drinking in Kreuzberg or smoking in Amsterdam has experienced the magic of spit-roasted lamb and beef served on flatbread with a lightly oiled salad and a bright tomato-based sauce.
Muslim cooks didn't mind serving drunk Europeans; drunk Eurotrash soccer fans didn't mind doing business with brown people.
For those of us who haven't given up on the dream of globalism (read: gentrifying yuppie neolib scum), it's nice to see a proper döner kebab in Portland thanks to California-based Spitz (like I said, gentrifying neolib scum!).
Spitz was opened in Los Angeles a decade ago by two buddies with fond memories of chasing too many Pilsners with kebabs, subsequently expanding to under-kebabbed Salt Lake City, Minneapolis and, now, Portland. The stylish counter-service chainlet has street-styled interiors with graffitied walls and old vinyl tucked next to the bottles on the full bar, which specializes in fruited sangrias.
Spitz is one of the only places in Portland slicing meat off slow-spinning cones and, for my money, is the best kebab spot in town.
The heart of the menu is the Berlin döner ($9.75), made with thin slices of beef and lamb, chicken or a blend of beef, lamb and chicken that are shaved off the cone with a little crispness, surrounded with a slaw of cabbage, carrots and sumac. Just add a dollop of tzatziki, then neatly and tightly wrap it into a kebab about the size of a road flare.
There are various options on kebab fillings like pepperoncinis, feta or french fries, but my favorites are the spicy döner with fiery chili sauce and that classic with the house Berliner sauce—a harissa made in-house with poached garlic, tomatoes and chili paste.
It's on the salad-y side for a kebab, and you'll probably want some fries on the side if you're using it to sop up whiskey from the Old Gold next door.
About that spit: It's back there, roasting the meat cones custom-made for Spitz, but you won't see it. That's because co-founder Robert Wicklund made the conscious decision to hide the kitchen as part of making this an "elevated" take on the döner kebab.
"There are some wonderful aromas that are created by cooking those cones," Wicklund says. "But we actually got some feedback that you would leave smelling like those aromas, and we wanted a place you could go for lunch and then go back to the office. A lot of our decisions were based on 'Can you eat this for lunch?'"
You'll also find unapologetic drunk food like the Street Cart fries ($8.50), which are smothered in garlic aioli, feta, onion, green pepper, tomato, olives and pepperoncinis—or the Berliner fries, which are sopped with red sauce and tzatziki. You can add meat for $3, and I recommend it.
That combination of compressed meat, creamy tzatziki and earthy Berliner sauce is something I've long loved, and sought in this city. And so I say: thank you Turks, thank you Germans, thank you Angelenos.
Spitz, 2103 N Killingsworth St., 503-954-3601, spitzpdx.com. 11 am-10 pm Sunday-Thursday, 11 am-midnight Friday-Saturday.