It travels the Earth under many identities: falafel, donair, shish taouk, churrasquinho Grego (Greek steak), gyros or Turkish sandwiches. So many cultures have a version (and definition) of the shawarma that it may be one of the first steps to initiating a new and delicious world peace accord.
In Calgary, the shaved beef, chicken, and (sometimes) lamb pita wraps are usually prepared by devoted Middle Eastern and Mediterranean Canadians — and knowing where to find a good shawarma is clutch when you need a quick and satisfying lunch or dinner. Here are a few great shawarma spots.
Owner and “that super nice Lebanese guy who’s always there,” Sam Elkadri is devoted to the art of the shawarma, but he also makes a damn good vegetarian falafel, too (a.k.a. the Sam Sandwich). His pitas are handmade, filled with chicken, beef or a mix of both, and topped with your choice of lettuce, hot peppers, tomatoes, pickles, purple cabbage, olives and onions. Elkadri’s homemade sauces (particularly his secret hot sauce) give an amazing flavour kick to his lightly grilled shawarmas. 227 10 St. N.W., 403-283-0606.
One of the staples of Mediterranean cuisine in Calgary (since 1985), the Cedars Deli serves “jumbo” sized chicken and beef shawarma platters that leave little room for baklava afterwards (but buy some pastries for later, they’re delicious). Cedars’ wraps are heavier on the Lebanese seasoning and spices, so, if you really want to taste the flavours of the region, there is no better spot in Calgary. 3103 Edmonton Tr. N.E., 403-233-2771.
Tazza Deli and Grill
Longtime Bridgeland residents, the Traya family has created a hub of Middle Eastern eats in their neighbourhood that features chicken shish taouk and beef shawarmas, hand-stacked and deliciously dressed with garlic or tahini sauce. Also, try the lahmajeen (or pita twist) — beef and spices served on flatbread with fresh vegetables — to really round out your meal, and stomach. 1105 1 Ave N.E., 403-263-5922.
Jimmy’s A&A Deli
It’s nothing but pure unabashed, unpretentious eating at Jimmy’s. It’s loud and busy, but Jimmy and his staff make new and old customers alike feel comfortable, often throwing out free samples of sauces, meats and desserts to hungry customers. If it’s your first visit, you probably want to order the medium, as a large, loaded shawarma at Jimmy’s is a delectable war of attrition that few men can conquer on the first attempt. 1401 20 Ave. N.W., 403-289-1400.
Image courtesy of roboppy.