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Village Pita Bakery, Calgary: The best chicken shawarma I've ever had.

John Manzo Feb 9, 2008 06:45 PM

Village Pita Bakery is in Short Pants Plaza, 28th SE and Memorial. We stopped there for lunch and I was prepared to get what I always get: a "meat pie," which is actually a Sfeeha, crispy and delicious and cheap- partner and I usually get three and split one (ie, one and half pies each). And they are SUPERB. Well, today I noticed "chicken pocket" ($6.95) on the menu and tried it while partner got 2 meat pies.

Out comes the "chicken pocket" and it looks like a sfeeha but with sliced chicken inside- it was toasted like the meat pies are, folded in half; then the lady behind the counter unfolds it and asks if I'd like "everything." I don't know what "everything" is but it turned out to be diced tomatoes, pickled wild cukes, pickled turnip, hot peppers, and tons of what turned out to be garlic sauce.

Oh. My. God. It was delicious. It was different from any shawarma I've had, in part because the pita was pizza-crust crispy, the pickles added this sublime, complex taste (it didn't just taste of vinegar or whatever despite having three different pickled things), and the garlic sauce was incredible, with a tiny bit of sweetness to it. It was pure pleasure. Next time, I'm getting two.

I've had perfectly amazing shawarma in Toronto, Ottawa, Quebec City, and at places like Tazza and A&A in Calgary. I've never had any this delicious.

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  1. sleepycat RE: John Manzo Feb 10, 2008 09:16 AM

    mmmmmmmmm Shawarma... haven't had one of those for a very long time. Is it better than Falafel King on Stephen Ave??

    Thanks for your review :D

    1 Reply
    1. re: sleepycat
      John Manzo RE: sleepycat Feb 10, 2008 09:40 AM

      I love the King, but yes, much better, no contest.

    2. m
      Merry113 RE: John Manzo Feb 11, 2008 12:43 PM

      Thanks for the tip! I stopped by and had one of these today. Very yummy. The crispy bread really makes it.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Merry113
        John Manzo RE: Merry113 Feb 11, 2008 01:03 PM

        ...and you can buy those wild cuke pickles off their shelves too!

      2. l
        laracee RE: John Manzo Feb 12, 2008 09:14 AM

        Better than Tazza? I'll have to check it out...

        1 Reply
        1. re: laracee
          John Manzo RE: laracee Feb 12, 2008 02:21 PM

          DIFFERENT from Tazza but given the choice yes, I'd choose Village.

        2. f
          feuerzeug RE: John Manzo Feb 24, 2008 04:34 PM

          Try the Desert Deli in Forest Lawn. 52nd St., just off 17th Avenue SE.

          Ask for the super chicken, with hot sauce, and sweet sauce instead of tahini.

          I promise you, it's soooo good.

          15 Replies
          1. re: feuerzeug
            graemejw RE: feuerzeug Mar 1, 2008 08:10 AM

            A few doors up from the Village Pita Bakery is a little Jamaican pattie place - I ventured in the other day & for $2, i got a piping hot, spicy beef pattie. It was very, very nice indeed. The crust was the oligatory vivid yellow colour, but was very short in texture - perfect. The filling wasn't really that spicy (for my English borought up on curries) taste - but it was vey pleasant.

            Check it out!

            1. re: feuerzeug
              nonlinear RE: feuerzeug Jan 22, 2009 08:27 AM

              i tried the desert schwarama on the advice of some friends, and have to say that i thought it was average at best. the quality of the chicken was good, however there were no spices in it at all - it was essentially roasted (or even steamed?) chicken breast. they of course give you an option of donair sauce or tahini sauce, but that still doesn't compensate for the bland meat.

              a&a has much better schwaramas.

              1. re: nonlinear
                John Manzo RE: nonlinear Jan 22, 2009 02:50 PM

                I know it's a transliteration, but why do you always spell it "schwarama"? That's not even phonetic- I've seen it spelled "shawarma" or in Egyptian places "shawarme." You're the only person I've ever seen who spells it this way- and no this is not a rhetorical question nor is it intended as an insult, I'm honestly curious.

                1. re: John Manzo
                  John Manzo RE: John Manzo Jan 22, 2009 06:23 PM

                  I meant "shawerma" at Egyptian-owned places, like Sammy's :-)

                  1. re: John Manzo
                    nonlinear RE: John Manzo Jan 23, 2009 06:28 AM

                    i have no idea why, probablly because i'm trying to be quick and that's just how it comes out of my fingers. i guess i never even noticed it wasn't phonetic until you mentioned it.

                    why are always you so damn anal about everything? :)

                    1. re: nonlinear
                      John Manzo RE: nonlinear Jan 23, 2009 09:10 AM

                      Just the way it comes out of my... fingers. :)

                      I thought maybe you were coming from some tradition where it's actually spelled/pronounced that way- which might also explain your tastes or standards. Like of somebody asked where he could get good "doner kebab" I'd know why he was finding our "donair" insufficient.

                      1. re: John Manzo
                        nonlinear RE: John Manzo Jan 23, 2009 11:04 AM

                        i'm from the US, and grew up eating greek gyros, and then Palestinian and turkish sandwiches in university.

                        all i said was that the chicken at desert deli didn't havbe any spices - and it really doesn't, go there and see for yourself!

                      2. re: nonlinear
                        howlin RE: nonlinear Jan 25, 2009 02:11 PM

                        amen nonlinear

                    2. re: nonlinear
                      chewy_bakah RE: nonlinear Jan 24, 2009 07:39 PM

                      a and a will be the next stop .. out of curiousity what makes a and a much better in ur opinion. Just wondering :)

                      1. re: chewy_bakah
                        John Manzo RE: chewy_bakah Jan 24, 2009 09:00 PM

                        well they're HUGE with nicely seasoned chicken (I've never had any other type there), very nice garlic sauce that sticks around past its welcome and service that you'll either find endearing and funny or obnoxious or tiresome... either way it's a place you should visit at least once, the one on 20th Ave NW I mean.

                        1. re: John Manzo
                          nonlinear RE: John Manzo Jan 25, 2009 08:36 AM

                          i concur - these are some beastly sandwiches. I would recommend getting a small or medium - even if you're a big eater. The first few times I went I tried to get a large and it's just WAY too much food. you end up throwing it out because they don't exactly keep well haha.

                          i haven't had anything aside from chicken there, either. I would definitely go for a falafel sandwich if they were fried to order, but alas they are precooked and nuked like just about every other shop in calgary :(

                          1. re: nonlinear
                            John Manzo RE: nonlinear Jan 25, 2009 09:26 AM

                            I've never had the nerve to get a large from Jimmy's! A medium has me almost sick from meat and garlic overkill-

                            Nonlinear- have you tried to get some fresh-fried falafel at Tazza? Or short of that, maybe just asking for fresh? I think I mentioned that I've definitely had it fresh at Falafel King but that was at its old location on 1st.

                            1. re: John Manzo
                              nonlinear RE: John Manzo Jan 25, 2009 09:53 AM

                              hi John,

                              no i haven't! the only place i've had fresh falafel is the jewish (or, israeli as you say haha) place across from chinook. i've never been to tazza, but will definitely check it out.

                              1. re: John Manzo
                                nonlinear RE: John Manzo Apr 10, 2009 05:56 PM


                                thanks so much for your suggestion. i finally tried tazza today, and although they don't serve fresh-fried falafels, i must say that they have by far the best chicken schwarma i've had in calgary. i used to think jimmy's was the best, but jimmy's are too big and filled with low-quality iceberg lettuce and tomatoes, etc. at tazza all the veggies were super fresh and really high quality. there was a lot of parsley - i think they used this in place of lettuce. the pickles and peppers were awesome, too. unfortunately, i ate it too fast to really pay attention to what was in it, but it was definitely awesome. :)

                                1. re: nonlinear
                                  John Manzo RE: nonlinear Apr 10, 2009 08:38 PM

                                  For me, lettuce (esp iceberg) has no place in a shawarma- cabbage, absolutely, but not lettuce.

                                  It's been a long time since I've been to Tazza- my top picks recently have been Shawarma Station in Kensington (on 10 St NW, NOT Shawarma King on K'ton Rd) and Shawarma Knight by my house, 14 St SW just north of 17th. At S Station I always get their Shish Tawouk, which comes with chicken, a spicy hummous that I've only ever seen at this place, onions, and FRIES (just a couple). It is orgasmic and unique. I love S Knight because of the novel way they make a shawarma: They pit the toppings on a standard round pita, then roll THAT up into a huge thin square "pita" that they then grill- you get all these crisp layers of bread, it all holds together beautifully and texturally I've never had one like it. Good prices too.

                    3. sleepycat RE: John Manzo Mar 1, 2008 04:18 PM

                      Is the Chicken Swawarma different from the Chicken Pocket? We went in there today and said that we had heard that the Chicken Pockets were really good. The owner, I assume, said,"OMG, We're out." We opted for the steak and cheese pocket instead. It was ok. We had the humous and the fresh pita bread which were quite good. We did buy a meat pie as well but when we got home there was no meat pie in the bag. So we're not sure what tastes like. I've had Shawarma before so I thought I knew what they looked like.

                      11 Replies
                      1. re: sleepycat
                        John Manzo RE: sleepycat Mar 1, 2008 04:20 PM

                        Well shawarma just means "sandwich" so as I understand it, the pocket is the shawarma- I didn't want to title the thread "best chicken pocket I've ever had" :)

                        1. re: John Manzo
                          sleepycat RE: John Manzo Mar 1, 2008 04:38 PM

                          Hmm... I guess I'll try again and ask for the "Chicken Swawarma". Guess I was confused because there's a huge sign that advertising Chicken Shawarma but the sign inside the store says Chicken Pocket..... I didn't get asked if I wanted everything... we literally just got steak and cheese in the pocket.

                          1. re: sleepycat
                            yen RE: sleepycat Mar 1, 2008 09:46 PM

                            Did you accidentally order Fattayer instead of a Shawarma? If i were to guess, you got the wrong thing.

                            1. re: yen
                              sleepycat RE: yen Mar 1, 2008 10:23 PM

                              When we walked into the bakery I said to the owner that I had heard their Chicken pocket was really good. I assumed Chicken pocket was just another name for Chicken Shawarma.

                              Come to think of it.. DH and I suspect it was the Chicken pocket that was missing. We ordered 2 Steak and Cheese pockets, 1 spinach and feta pocket and one meat pie. ( with humous and pita bread.) We got 2 meat pockets and the spinach one. The meat pockets did not look or taste the same and there were toppings in the pockets other than the meat.

                            2. re: sleepycat
                              sleepycat RE: sleepycat Mar 4, 2008 06:43 AM

                              So DH phoned VPB after we got home and told them that we were missing something and we thought it was the meat pie. The owner said they would replace the meat pie and throw in a free one. After checking the descriptions and what we ordered we discovered it really was the second steak and cheese that we were missing. We went back and identified ourselves to the owner. We asked him specically what was difference between the meat pie and the steak and cheese and he told us that the meat pie was ground up whereas the steak was sliced. Now we understood why the two did not taste the same. He replaced our order of Steak and Cheese which was missing from the original order. But we didn't get anything extra as promised. Since the last time we ordered was the very first time we were there we had no idea what to expect. So when he handed us the pockets they were already wrapped up so we assumed the toppings were already in the pocket. After they brought out the chicken pocket we had to order something else as they didn't give anything extra. I guess the lesson learned here is never go at the end of the day and be very specific about your order and check it before you leave. The advertised Chicken Shawarma on the outside sign is the Chicken pocket advertised in the store.

                              1. re: sleepycat
                                John Manzo RE: sleepycat Mar 4, 2008 07:33 AM

                                Sounds pretty disorganized! I'm happy we didn't have these frustrations, and I'm sorry to read about your problems.

                                Is there anything more frustrating than getting takeout, coming home and discovering that your order's wrong???

                                1. re: John Manzo
                                  yen RE: John Manzo Mar 4, 2008 08:02 AM

                                  I think i know one thing John - my former room-mate and good friend used to get McDonalds when he was busy. Same thing - the drivethru by his place would routinely miss things, and leave things out. He considered it a game - to see who would win - McDonalds by forgetting something, or him, by catching it before he left?

                                  Anyway, on a particularly day, he orders 9 McNuggets and a Quarter Pounder only to come home and find a Quarter Pounder and an empty box with 0 McNuggets. They remembered the box. But forgot the chicken :)

                                  Needless to say, he conceded victory and never went back.

                                  1. re: John Manzo
                                    sleepycat RE: John Manzo Mar 4, 2008 10:48 AM

                                    I think I must be cursed. I went to Alberta King of Subs to try out the poutine that some have said was quite good. With that I decided to try their Special Sub of the Day smoked meat and steak. The owner packed my poutine and told me to have a nice day. I said to her that I was also waiting for my sub. How does this happen when there are no other customers around and I have a super simple order?

                                    1. re: sleepycat
                                      yen RE: sleepycat Mar 4, 2008 12:21 PM

                                      Lol. Wow. It happens occasionally to me, but this is getting to be a pattern.

                                      How was the poutine? Doesnt sound like you were thrilled with it. I don't like the Subs at AKOS - lousy bread, lousy lettuce. Prefer their sandwiches typically...

                                      1. re: yen
                                        sleepycat RE: yen Mar 4, 2008 05:21 PM

                                        I think there's a conspiracy to irritate me so much I give up on eating.

                                        I liked the cheese curds and the gravy was smooth and flavorful without being salty. There was a mound of gravy so it did make the fries soggy. I think the fries were fried "fresh" but I do think the oil should be changed.

                                        The sub was ok. I disliked the flimsy cheap bread. There was quite a bit of meat in it so I think it needs a hearty bread. Iceberg lettuce is just water so I didn't like that either. It was pretty fresh. I'm just glad that I was awake enough to know that I did not have my sub yet. I could have sworn when I walked in the price for the sub special was $6.95 but when I walked out it was $7.95. When I asked for everything.... one of things the other lady at the counter shook on was a ton of salt on the tomatoe. I had say, "No salt no salt." Who needs that much salt when you're eating smoked meat.

                                    2. re: John Manzo
                                      sleepycat RE: John Manzo Mar 17, 2008 12:52 PM

                                      Yeah it was disappointing to open everything up at home and look at it and ask that's it?? It definitely could have been a much better experience. Live and learn I guess

                                      Now that I have reignited my taste buds for Shawarmas I'm wondering about the other places listed. hmmmm

                            3. d
                              debkassy RE: John Manzo Mar 2, 2008 03:30 PM

                              John, there is one shop that makes the pita bread and then across the lot is a shawarma shop. I think that is the one you are referring to. I have been going there every so often for about 4 years and they are absolutely awesome. Hey, maybe you are talking about the pita shop. I guess I need to do a roadtrip this week! I always bought the meat pies. I remember when they were $1.75.

                              1. Jigga RE: John Manzo Mar 5, 2008 05:59 AM

                                Damn - I was just across the street at a meeting last week. I wish I had read this post before, since my Subway sub was horrid (not that I expected anything better!). Looks like it might be worth a separate trip though.

                                1. hornvixen RE: John Manzo Mar 22, 2008 06:36 PM

                                  I second that the pickled vegetables add another dimension to the food at Village Pita. I didn't have a shawarma, but a falafel. Luckily, a little bit of parsley really livens things up to make it taste a little more fresh. It works.

                                  1. c
                                    chewy_bakah RE: John Manzo Jan 22, 2009 07:49 AM

                                    Village is good but Desert Deli is way better ... yum yum

                                    1. h
                                      hclass RE: John Manzo Jan 22, 2009 03:26 PM

                                      SO you folks prefer your shawarmas full loaded in a large wrap about to burst with juices just barely being contained at the bottom? Or more of the opposite and rather enjoy two of them?
                                      I grew up in the middle east and just got use to small shawarmas that would not even cost a dollar and were a great snack. Occasionally if I were to have them for dinner I'd get 2-3 along with some fresh tabouli & hummous. I'm not really a fan of the "Canadian style" shawarmas were you keep stuffing from the Subway style veggie display.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: hclass
                                        nonlinear RE: hclass Jan 23, 2009 06:31 AM

                                        i too get annoyed with overstuffed sandwiches

                                        1. re: hclass
                                          chewy_bakah RE: hclass Jan 23, 2009 09:07 AM

                                          Isn't it how you load or don't load it. They ask you what you want on it. So if you don't like the veggie fixings you don'thave to put it on. right?

                                          1. re: chewy_bakah
                                            hclass RE: chewy_bakah Apr 15, 2009 08:19 PM

                                            In the middle east you do not have many choices, you can only remove items, each place is close in taste but you find favorites after awhile. I am just getting sick of these huge sandwiches and prefer something easy to eat, no mess, great taste, and you can have two since the original price would be lower or a side instead of getting one huge sandwich which I rarely finish in itself.

                                        2. n
                                          nonlinear RE: John Manzo Apr 24, 2010 09:52 PM

                                          tried Village Pita today for the first time, and i agree with you all that it's damn good. one of the best in the city. I think I still like Tazza a bit better (i like their spices), but Village does it VERY well.

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: nonlinear
                                            The Gut RE: nonlinear Jul 30, 2010 11:56 AM

                                            I'm happy someone had issues with Shwarma King, that thread lead here. I get to read a John Manzo reccomendation leading me to more tasty food and some fighting. Fabulous thread!

                                            I am full of "The Villiage Pita's chicken pocket." Fantastic! I can't compare directly to my favorite Shwarmas because it seems pretty different to me. It's just as good for sure and close enough that I could call it a shwarma.

                                            Thanks. Sounds like I'll need to try that Dessert Deli next.

                                            1. re: nonlinear
                                              The Gut RE: nonlinear Jul 30, 2010 11:57 AM

                                              Where's Tazza? I need to scope that out too.

                                              1. re: The Gut
                                                John Manzo RE: The Gut Jul 30, 2010 12:17 PM

                                                Tazza is in Bridgeland, 1st Ave NE a little east of the new condos.

                                                1. re: John Manzo
                                                  The Gut RE: John Manzo Aug 3, 2010 11:40 AM

                                                  Thank you.

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