Corvallis has Mediterranean/Middle Eastern food nailed down pretty tight. Decent felafal and surprisingly good shawarma are readily available. Nomenclature is an issue though. For example, our Wednesday take-out staple is either called Crystal’s Cafe, King of Felafal, or Crystal’s Cafe King of Felafal. It’s a branding nightmare, but, in a town this size, all you have to say is “that shawarma place on Monroe by Roxy Dogs.” Everyone knows.

Along those lines, we have two places serving Jebal’s food – Al Jebal on the south side and Le Cafe d’el Jebal downtown. Professor X and I were destroying some mixed kebab and baked lamb at Al Jebal the other day when this came up. He posited that any connection was impossible since Al Jebal was actually good. After a bit of research, I discovered that they are possibly owned by the same person, who may or may not be named Jebal. The Internet told me this though – Yelp specifically – and well, Yelp is silly place full of whiny whiners who whine. To confound research efforts, neither Jebal has much of a web presence as is the custom here.

I’m personally inclined to think that they’re separate entities. As Professor X pointed out, each Jebal is vastly different. South side Jebal is a clean, saffron colored room filled with nice, but slightly out of date furniture. There are a few mirrors on the wall, some unmemorable art. It’s a simple place, more concerned with food than appearances. Downtown Jebal is posh and designer-y with Moroccan hanging lamps. It feels like an upscale hookah lounge. South side Jebal serves exotic drinks like Vimto that folks from various countries might crave away from home. Downtown has bottled water and soft drinks. Then there’s the obvious – the food at South side Jebal is fantastic. After barely scratching our itch for Sabri Nihari with passable kebab around town, Al Jebal’s can actually hold court. It’s hard to believe that the stringy, dry stuff we had at Le Cafe d’el Jebal is even remotely affiliated. Also? Al Jebal isn’t staffed by spaced out mouth-breathers. We got our food within a reasonable duration of time, as rare as that is around here.

It is possible though that they’re sister restaurants, with Al Jebal being the older wallflower who works for Doctors without Borders and Le Cafe being the pretty, dumb one who fucked off to L.A. to be an actress. Perhaps a matter of different managers with different styles working under the same owner? It will have to remain a mystery for right now. Until then, Southtown Al Jebal has my vote.