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Bagdhad Grill, Carbonella Creations, Sushi Rakkyo 

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click to enlarge Baghdad Grill - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • Baghdad Grill

Baghdad Grill

3307 N. Academy Blvd., 574-1009

The little shopping center across Academy from Saigon Springs still looks a little sad — a vacant former grocery store will do that. But this authentic Iraqi spot doesn't show any of that. Bright reds in the decor and quiet Middle Eastern music keep things quite luxurious. It's a shame we're in a rush the day we visit; we'll have to return and linger over tea.

That said, the to-go service for a Iraqi lamb kebab sandwich ($6.49) is downright zippy — we're in and out in well under 10 minutes. And it's good, too — very good. The lamb chews tender, with lemony brightness leading pleasantly over grill char. It's a little different, spice-wise, than similar dishes around town, and decidedly pleasant. The canoe-shaped pocket of light, flavorful flatbread also bears plenty of lettuce, onions, mild Iraqi pickles and a cluster of... french fries? Well, life is full of fun surprises. — GS

click to enlarge Sushi Rakkyo - RILEY BRATZLER
  • Riley Bratzler
  • Sushi Rakkyo

Sushi Rakkyo

9205 N. Union Blvd., 645-8754

Now in its sixth year, Rakkyo continues to pack the house for all-you-can-eat sushi ($25.95 per head at dinner, assuming you don't leave leftovers, which get charged at full menu price). Which may explain less-than-stellar service: We run out of soy, request a ginger refill that never arrives, receive the wrong beer, and rolls are hastily dropped without indication of what's what.

The atmosphere might be described as "bro sushi" — the staff startles us by erupting into a chant to encourage one macho table to down their sake bombs. That, and there's the Hot Night, Viagra and Orgasm rolls. Still, like at Sushi Ring, you can't beat the price to punish a handful of rolls and nigiri, even if they feel rice-dominant at turns. I'd skip the albacore and garlic roll, but would hit the fun/messy Sushi Pizza, the salt-spiked mango salmon, and any of the spicy or baked options. Green tea ice cream ($4) could do without the whipped cream and Hershey's drizzle. — MS

click to enlarge Carbonella Creations - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • Carbonella Creations

Carbonella Creations

390 N. Circle Drive, 213-1097, facebook.com/CarbonellaCreations

There's a sliding scale of expectations when we buy pizza. Dollar-slice New York-style utility pizza has different standards from, say, $8-to-$12 woodfired 'za. So $15-plus pizza that must be ordered 24 hours in advance had better do something amazing. We order the peperonata ($18) and wait for the call.

The crust has great flavor and toothsome structure enough to stand up to olive oil and bright passata — seasoned tomato puree. Huge oregano, basil and garlic flavors lead, mellowed by big chunks of creamy mozzarella. Fresh bell peppers, black olives, onions and garlic delight, with capers adding a welcome salty punch. Of note, co-owners/co-chefs Enrico Romagnoli and Molly Hamlin haven't sourced affordable pizza boxes when I order, so mine comes in six smaller to-go containers so no slices are stacked. Carbonella cuts no corners, and we love the results. — GS


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