Abou Shakra was established in 1947 by Ahmed Abou Shakra in one of the oldest districts in old Cairo, El Kasir El Einy. Since then they have expanded to twelve locations in Egypt although I think this is the original location. Apparently they run a successful takeout business as well. There is nothing astounding about an Egyptian restaurant in Cairo that serves up a wealth of grills, kofta, mezzas and more. There are a few notable restaurants that rise above the rest, and Abou Shakra is one of them. Lauded in the past as a high-quality venue with traditional Egyptian cuisine, Abou Shakra is today a mid-range eatery with fairly satisfactory local cuisine. For me it was a place with good air conditioning in downtown Cairo, as an alternative to not taking pictures in the non-airconditioned Cairo Museum. As I have stated repeatedly, the current Egyptian regime/Supreme Counsel of Antiquities/Zahi Hawass does not allow any photographs in any museums or inside temples (and they wonder why there are no tourists).
The interior is nicely appointed though a little small. The staff are polite but do not speak English so I resorted to pointing out items on the menu. Based on my previous experiences in Egyptian establishments this was quite nice. Additionally and most importantly the air conditioning was good.
The meal began with traditional Egyptian flatbread called Aish Baladi. Similar to pita, but made with whole wheat flour, this Egyptian flatbread is traditionally baked in scorching-hot ovens in Cairo's bustling markets. Home cooks can achieve similar results with a baking stone and an oven cranked to high. The good thing is that the bread is usually made fresh, several times a day. I personally prefer white flour pita with more salt added to the recipe but this was warm and good.
When I was in Egypt, I avoided salads and hummus due to concerns about the safety of the water and general cleanliness. I ordered some kofte since this was supposed to be a well known grill. The kofte were dry, over cooked and lacked seasoning. Nothing like the lovely kofte in Turkey. I ordered pigeon just to see how they prepared it. Pigeon has precious little meat, this was essentially unseasoned rice stuffed in pigeon skin, really pretty much inedible with a tiny helping of potatoes and mixed vegetables. The real stars of this meal were the selection of stuffed dolma. I had stuffed zucchini, stuffed eggplant, stuffed pepper and stuffed grape leaves. As usual, there was little or no seasoning, and no meat but these little morsels were delicious. For dessert I had their crème caramel which was actually really delicious. So, sadly for me, this was the nicest restaurant in which I ate in Egypt. The meal would have been much better if I had ordered hummus and chicken or lamb. I would give it a thumbs up for lunch if you find yourself in Cairo. As an aside, if you are on a tour, they put you in Giza with no restaurants or bars. Downtown is the only sign of life in an otherwise dismal dining scene.
Aish Baladi: http://www.saveur.com/aish-baladi-recipe
Ancient Egyptian Bread: http://www.historicalcookingproject.com/2014/12/guest-post-ancient-egyptian-bread-by.html
Supreme Council of Antiquities: http://www.sca-egypt.org/eng/main.htm