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OAFE Award: ode to shawarma

If you aren’t a resident of Ottawa, you probably don’t recognize the word shawarma. You may know its cousins as doner (Turkish) or gyros (Greek).

For whatever reason, there is a shawarma restaurant every 5 blocks in Ottawa. They serve several different dishes like falafel and fish, and some even dabble in burgers. But their raison d’etre is shawarma. I estimate that I’ve visited 75% of them at least once, from the sketchy Vanier shawarma, to the fancy gourmet shawarma on Somerset street. I’ve had a few bad experiences (Shawarma at 11am isn’t good. The skewer of chicken hasn’t cooked yet), but the vast majority have been on the good side. And some stray into excellence. My current favourite is Shawarma Andalos, which shares a building with a Burger King at the intersection of Hunt Club and Merivale. Delish.
Shawarma is on the list for every visitor to Ottawa that we host. I’ve never had anyone turn their nose up … perhaps they were just being nice, but I’d like to think that shawarma has won them over.

A shawarma consists of a split fresh pita bread, upon which a healthy dollop of garlic sauce is slathered. Small quantities of shredded lettuce, sliced tomatoes, and spiced onions are added for some crunchiness and to add complexity. They usually save the best vegetable accompaniment for last: sticks of fuschia-colored pickled turnips. The color alone isshawarma.jpghypnotic but the taste is inexplicable.

To finish the sandwich, you then have your choice of either seasoned chicken or beef, which is carved off a rotating skewer cooker. The sandwich is then rolled into wax paper and placed briefly in a sandwich press to seal the deal.

I’m quite certain that I could eat shawarma every day for the rest of my life and be quite content. If we ever move away from Ottawa, I may need to open my own Ottawa-style shawarma restaurant in the new city, both to spread the gospel of shawarma and to ensure my own supply. I can see it now in neon:

Shawarma Fullerton

December 14, 2006 - 1:13 pm

contributor mark - Shawarma Fullerton sounds very authentic lebanese.

My favourite shawarma stand is Marroush on elgin, but at night it gets sort of crazy and gross.

There’s actually a lot of shawarma places in Montreal. I’m pretty sure I had shawarmas there before I had one in ottawa.

December 14, 2006 - 1:58 pm

shannen - The pickled turnips are my favourite. I get very annoyed with the Shawarma place across the street from my office because they substitute them with pickled cabbage. Wrong on so many levels.

So is the 11 am shawarma.

December 14, 2006 - 2:13 pm

Jen - Guess what?

There is a Shawarma King in Calgary!

But it should be noted that it is currently on the City of Calgary website as 1 restaurant of many that has been recently shut down due to failure to comply with food health standards. I visited there once, and it was disgusting.

I miss Ottawa shawarma’s.

(You forgot to mention the delicious-ness of falafels!)

December 14, 2006 - 2:23 pm

Kristin - Will comment on Shawarma later…

But you have both been tagged. Go to my blog.

(I’m sorry).

December 14, 2006 - 4:36 pm

shannen - Tagged? I’m so intrigued. Be right there.

December 15, 2006 - 8:58 am

Kristin - I love Shawarma Deluxe on Dalhousie. Super sketchy, busiest at approximately 3 a.m. and the garlickyiest sauce around. Mmmmm. Will have to try this Hunt Club/Merivale Shawarma. I also love pickled turnips.

I had shawarma for the first time within two weeks of arriving in Ottawa and instantly fell in love.

To take your shawarma eating to a whole new level, please visit “Really Lebanese Food” on St. Joseph boulevard. The owner, who refers to himself as the Shawarma King, cruises around Orleans in a minivan with a glass dome inserted into the roof. Occasionally, you see him inside the dome, crown on head, waving a regal wave. When you’re inside the restaurant, please note his throne in the corner (facing the 50″ flatscreen). He wears shiny disco-esque shirts and jokes and chats with every customer. It is a true experience.

However, the man behind the cash is totally creepy and doesn’t brush his teeth often, which grosses me out.

Still…you HAVE to go. At least once. The shawarma really is excellent.

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