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The Classic Doner Plate with one ounce of chicken added.

Image: Alice Levitt

Yes, that's a stump. That twee, Nordic-inflected serving vessel usually exists only in the realm of fine dining. But Crisp Döner Café started in 2014 as a food truck serving primarily at University of Houston, before opening a store late last year on Highway 6 South. And when they serve sliced döner meat on said stump, I find that I am moved not only to forgive them but embrace it. 

This is partly influenced by videos on the restaurant's Facebook such as the one below:

According to the caption, that is 200 pounds of homemade beef-and-lamb döner. The restaurant typically hangs cones of more than 100 pounds. And when I visited last week for lunch, the crowd attested that it's not overkill.

A mix of English and Turkish accounted for most of the conversation between large groups in the stylish dining room that's decorated with the words "Istanbul," "Berlin" and "Houston" (it's common for Turkish immigrants to pass through Germany before hitting the U.S.). A smoky smell fills the large room, the result of the two special charcoal grills that give the cones of meat their trademark "crisp" edges.

I was disappointed that there were no combination plates to allow me to try both the beef-and-lamb and chicken meats, but had to pay by the ounce for extra. That said, an ounce of chicken turned out to be more than enough.

That was lucky, as I found the shreds of well-marinated meat more flavorful than the beef-and-lamb. The latter succeeded more on texture, and how well it played with the chile sauce on the side. I used the subtly sweet sauce to coat the rice beneath the meat, too. I was a fan of the salad, whose most prominent ingredient was pickled cabbage.

As I ate my way through the meal, I was able to tear away bits of yufka (lavash-like flatbread) from below, like the bottom layer of injera in an Ethiopian meal. The portions that had laid beneath the salad were soaked with just enough tangy dressing to be more enticing with every bite.

And yes, when it's filled with a meal like Crisp's, I'll embrace the stump.

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