The Rise of Excellent Shawarma across Beirut
If you’re here to read about shawarma icons like Barbar in Hamra or Joseph in Sin el Fil, you’ll be sorely disappointed. I’m not one to dabble in the trite or commonplace. And I’m going to be frank: the last time I sampled the pickings at Joseph, it was I who was sorely disappointed. Like almost every eatery that rises to fame and snatches acclaim, the trajectory is parabolic. No doubt I’d had much better.
So for the past year or two, I just couldn’t recommend a shawarma joint wholeheartedly. There have been so many I’ve frequented over the years, but they’ve all shuttered: Shawarma Show in Jdeideh, TSC Signature in Beirut Souks, Sheikha in Sassine. Like most things in Beirut, food outlets are transient around here. So when you discover something good, become a loyal patron. And by God, spread the word.
Here are not one but two of my recent finds in the world of shaved meat from a rotating spit. The first, I’d surprisingly forgotten about; the second, we stumbled across in a mall. Both make the mark in my rigorous book of Lebanese meaty street food.
Spiced & Sliced
|Spiced & Sliced relocated from its original perch in Broumana Villa to Hamra Main Street|
Location: Hamra Main Street
Open: Noon to midnight daily
Who comes here: College students from nearby universities; tourists
Unique selling point: Makes hybrid shawarma wraps with borrowed toppings like guacamole; besides chicken and beef, there’s soujouk shawarma
The low-down: Look for a modest hole in the wall along the Hamra main drag just as you’re entering the bustling college town. There are four bar stools for those who want to dine-in; if you order a combo, it’s probably best that you duck inside for a quick meal. For 11,000 LBP, gorge on two shawarma sandwiches (one original and one of your choice), a box of fries, and a soft drink. Besides the classic, try a meat con carne wrapped in tortilla bread and slathered with guac and sour cream. The Djej a Toumic packs coleslaw, fries, and aioli inside a tortilla wrap. If you're craving a quick snack during your brisk walk, go for a solitary sandwich at only 4,000 – 4,500 LBP.
|Make it a combo for 11,000 LBP ($7.33)|
|You can never go wrong with the classic beef shawarma in pita bread|
Ask for: Hassan or Roy. They’ll insist you sample each type of meat before you order!
|Try before you buy!|
Bayrut Street Food Bites
|As you're strolling around L1 at City Mall Dora, locate BSFB across from the food court|
Location: City Mall Dora
Open: 11:30 am to 10 pm daily
Who comes here: Folks and families strolling in the mall
Unique selling point: They serve everything here, from “bamieh” (okra in onions, tomatoes and garlic) to falafel and lamb kafta
The low-down: Who knows why they elected to spell ‘Bayrut’ the way they did; but don’t judge a book by its cover! If you’re browsing through the mall, you’ll spot the shawarma spits in the restaurant window, and I dare you to resist. Sit at the massive wooden communal bench that outfits the dining space, and order a shawarma combo for 13,000 LBP. Portions are substantial, so two sandwiches plus a generous heaping of fries washed down with a Coke will really make the belly bulge. But it’s worth it. You won’t find any frills or fussy fixings here: it’s either chicken or beef or both. Order a small bowl of hummus (4,000 LBP) to whet the appetite as you’re waiting for your order to finish.
|Make it a combo for 13,000 LBP|
|Spot the morsel of fat front and center? No one said shawarma was 100% lean!|
Ask for: Oumayma, the world’s sweetest, friendliest, most hospitable waitress (though she might clandestinely be the manager). She offered our little one fresh-baked whole-wheat bread and a tray of homemade sfouf.
|I'm definitely coming back to discover their falafel|