The Food Biz: Newer skewer

Pizza Perfect’s owners prepare to put a fresh Southern twist on the kebab. Also: Another Ohio ice cream maker comes to town [From our print edition featured in this week’s City Paper]

The owners of Pizza Perfect, the popular purveyor of pizzas and calzones in Hillsboro Village for 15 years, have taken over the restaurant space next door for a new venture, Kay Bob’s, specializing in fresh meat and veggies flame-grilled on a skewer.

If that mode of preparation sounds a little familiar — like, maybe, a kebab — you’re on the right track. Kay Bob’s (get the name now?) is a kebab place with a Southern twist, says Pizza Perfect’s Amir Arab, who’s a native of Iran but has lived in Middle Tennessee since the ’70s. He and his brother Ali own the Pizza Perfect at 1602 21st Ave. S. and its Bellevue spin-off. (The Pizza Perfect on Granny White is a separate operation owned by Amir’s former business partner.)

Amir Arab says one reason to skew the concept away from straight-ahead Middle Eastern cuisine is to avoid duplication with the upstairs neighbor, a Middle Eastern restaurant called … Middle Eastern Restaurant. But the blending of food traditions also reflects Arab’s dual perspective.

“I’ve been here for 30 years,” he says, recalling the culture shock when he came to Middle Tennessee from Iran in the late ’70s. “I go back now and I don’t know it,” he says, laughing. “Nothing’s seasoned the way I like it.”

He does plan to play up everything that’s healthy about traditional kebabs, like fresh ingredients cooked over a flame instead of a greasy griddle. All the sauces will be made from scratch, he says, including lemon-saffron, cucumber and one of his nods to Southern comfort food: barbecue sauce. He’ll also have a house-made olive tapenade to top the sandwiches.

But along with healthy and even vegetarian options, Arab promises hearty fare like grilled kielbasa. And to help folks kick back after work, Kay Bob’s will serve beer (no wine or cocktails), including six brews on draft.

A Pizza Perfect veteran, Andrew Tarpley, will manage Kay Bob’s as a co-owner. The team hopes to open Kay Bob’s open sometime in July, after major construction to expand and improve the space, which has had a long and not always illustrious life representing a world tour of cuisines in various quick-serve guises — Chinese, Japanese, Indian and most recently, burritos. (Predecessor Mr. Burrito Fresh was locally owned and had a pretty good menu, but it lasted only a couple years.)

Here hoping Kay Bob’s ends the revolving restaurant routine.

Storied Ohio ice cream now here

If you’re not from Southern Ohio or its environs, you’ve probably never heard of Graeter’s ice cream. Yet in Cincinnati, it’s a hallowed name — and it’s gotten national notice as a mail-order favorite of famous folks like Oprah.

But there’s no need for Nashvillians to seek out Graeter’s in cyberspace. After decades of being found only in Ohio and Northern Kentucky, Graeter’s has arrived here. It just popped up in Nashville-area Krogers and the Fresh Market in Brentwood.

The Graeter family has been cranking out ice cream for four generations, since Louis Graeter set up shop in 1870, when ice cream required a good icehouse connection, heaps of rock salt and massive elbow grease.

These days, Graeter’s touts its “French pot method,” producing the ice cream in small 2-gallon batches. “Our secret recipe of fresh cream and egg custard is gently swirled along the chilled sides of a slowly spinning French Pot Freezer,” Graeter’s says. “A blade softly scrapes the sides of the pot, folding the ice cream into itself.”

The gentle folding keeps air out of the ice cream and makes it dense and rich, they say, claiming that a pint of Graeter’s weighs nearly a pound, almost twice as much as some other brands.

Another distinction: Graeter’s uses cane sugar (not corn syrup) and real eggs and cream, without a bunch of fake flavorings. The strawberry, for instance, is intensely flavored from real strawberries alone.

Finally, many flavors are unique, like the black-raspberry-chocolate-chip. A scoop looks gorgeous — pureed berries yield a deep purple color spiked with even darker chocolate chunks.

Dessert connoisseurs and fans of homemade ice cream may point out that Graeter’s recipes include one common concession to mass production: natural gums (carob bean and guar) to stabilize texture — but almost every other brand in the supermarket lists gums on the label.

Anyway, Graeter’s is a welcome addition to Nashville’s summer desserts. At $4.69 a pint, it fills a premium niche between familiar brands and another Ohio ice cream new to Nashville, Jeni’s, which is $9 a pint and sold only at Hot & Cold in Hillsboro Village —and soon in an East Nashville scoop shop.

Jeni’s, however, inhabits an ultra-gourmet realm of artisan methods, cream from small pasture-fed herds and haute cuisine flavors like goat-cheese-and-red-cherries and Belgian-style-golden-ale-and-apricots.