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Shwarma- Best Of, and Jerusalem, Garlic 'n Lemons, Falafel King, etc., plus Lamb Kabobs

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O.K. i readily admit it; i'm late to the shwarma party. All these years i have been ordering lamb kabob instead because I thought shwarma would be a) ground and plain and b) dry. So, foolish me. The spicy chicken shwarma wrap at Garlic 'n Lemons has opened up my palate. So I have 3 questions:

- Have you tasted the Garlic 'n Lemons spicy chicken shwarma but you prefer another version, and if so, where plse.?

- Who has side dishes as good as G 'n L, or more unusual?for instance, the mouska salad at Azama and GnL, the avocado salad at Azama,and the 'couscous' salad at GnL(this is the link to my GnL review, mentioning the sides i loved): http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/716975

- Nadeau wrote up Jerusalem Pita and Grill in Jan. How does their shwarma compare?

and

is their "laffa" bread the same as Garlic 'n Lemons' saj bread? If not, what is it like plse?I am always intrugued by unusual flat breads- like the one used for wraps at Sofra and the Tunisian place in Camb.

- and lastly, I may as well ask a related question:Lamb Kabobs: who actually puts theirs in a flavorful marinade that makes theirs 'the best'? i just have not been really wowed by any that i've had: fordee's. sami's,rami's, falafel king, azama, demo's. They're good, but plain, and it's always the accompanying sauce that gives them punch. I can't remember what i thought of them at sabra in harv sq. last time i was there..........

Thanks much for your help.

-----
Sofra
1 Belmont St, Cambridge, MA 02138

Azama Grill
54 Harvard Ave, Boston, MA 02134

Garlic 'n Lemons
133 Harvard Ave, Boston, MA 02134

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  1. The related but unasked question is, to paraphrase Bill Clinton, what do you mean by shwarma?

    In my experience the original shwarma (Arabic) /doner kebab (Turkish) / gyro (Greek) should be made of marinated and spiced slices of lamb, heavily interleaved with a healthy quantity of lamb fat. The result is pressed, placed on a heavy strong skewer and slowly rotated to yield a result that is simultaneously gently cooked at the core and singed to yield an intensely browned flavorful taste at the fat-laden periphery, the Maillard reaction. To achieve that last effect, the external heat source must produce a temperature of at least 300 and preferably 500 degrees farenheit.

    All names ((shwarmer/doner kebab/gyro) should share those essential properties. Unfortunately the Greek version, most commonly available in the US, the Kronos gyro, has completely ruined the market for this product by adulterating its taste. The Kronos gyro is prepared either as spam on a stick or spam on a grill. Instead of slicing meat and fat and threading it together through the spit, Kronos grinds it into a spiced mess, a spam-like mold, that can be cooked in a variety of ways, whose result is remote from the original. Since the meat components have been rendered unidentifiable by virtue of spamification, the typical Greek Kronos-like gyro can be composed of any combination of soy, pork, beef, poultry, devoid of the lambiness which imho is the essential taste of the dish.

    Kronos was able to get away with this travesty because the Greek version, the gyro, was often served with fresh sliced onions and thick garlic-flavored yogurt. These competing strong tastes overwhelmed the original aroma of grilled lamb, reducing the necessity of making fresh lamb the star of the show.

    The other adulteration of s/d/g (my abbreviation) occurred in Israel. On the whole, there is not as big a market for lamb in Israel as there is in the neighboring Muslim countries. I suspect that Jews of Eastern European origin do not enjoy the gamy taste of lamb. Furthermore the hyperbolic health fat-phobia that has dominated much Euro-American cooking in general discouraged consumption of the the fat-laden genuine original. Lamb has also been more expensive in Israel than in the Arab world. The result is that lamb disappeared as the meat of choice. It was replaced by a combination of lamb and beef, beef alone, turkey (usually thigh meat), or chicken. None of these other meats can produce the intense flavor of freshly grilled lamb fat. The Israeli version of shwarma could not get away with burying the product in garlic-yogurt, because of the requirements of kashrut. So on the whole, despite the ubiquity of fat-reduced poultry, the essential meat component of the Israeli shwarma is superior to the Kronos-crippled gyro sold in the US.

    Dietary restrictions also explain the distinctly Greek use of pork in their gyros, a practice unacceptable in Muslim and Jewish cooking.

    As a result in the US our appreciation of this product has been undermined by the changes that have occurred to it over the decades.

    I have eaten s/d/g in the course of half a century in Istanbul, Beirut, and Jerusalem, as well as in various greasy spoons in Chicago's Greek town. IMHO the best version of this taste was to be had in the fast-food stands near the movie theaters in Beirut's Martyr Square (the center of the city's downtown) before the Lebanese Civil War.

    Nothing I have ever tasted in Boston compares.

    In my next posting I will comment in detail on the strengths and weaknesses of what I have had in Boston. On the whole the results do not compare to what I have had in the past. but I think that the Family Restaurant in Brookline serves not bad doner kebab, but not great either. There is a Lebanese place on Mass Ave. in Cambridge, near the Harvard Law School which makes its own shwarma on a spit. It looks OK from the outside, but the result is dry and tasteless. I think because of fat-phobia the product lacks the essential layer of lamb fat. It is over-marinated (and consequently dried out in the process), and their spit unit is not hot enough to create the Maillard reaction. I will get the name of this place and add it to the discussion.

    25 Replies
    1. re: VivreManger

      The place on Mass ave is Wrapro. Agreed that it's not as good as it could be. Try the lamb shwarma at Falafel Corner in Harvard Square. More of the fat that you speak of. Having had pretty good lamb schwarma in Jerusalem, I'm not sure I agree with your thinking on Israeli versions.

      1. re: newhound

        Thanks for identifying Wrapro. By the way they also promote their own knafe, the Arab version of Danish pastry. It should be composed of baked shredded wheat with white soft melted cheese (haloumi perhaps), and hot sweet syrup. But having seen what they did to shwarma, I hestitated to try anything else there.

        A propos Israeli shwarma I recognize that among all the varieties offered in Israel, lamb is still available. It may be possible to find in Jerusalem (even in the western part of the city) a decent version of the dish in that original form, but Israeli chefs have perverted the dish with poultry, particularly turkey, and since then it can never be the same.

        While I recognize the necessity and value of creativity and invention in cooking I am still a purist when it comes to naming dishes. If you want to make a shwarma-like product out of something other than lamb, call it something else. The Israeli poultry version could be called, Poulma, the Greek pork version, Porma, and the Kronos version Sparma.

        On your recommendation I will give Falafel Corner a try. Where exactly in the Square is it? The other Boston reputedly lamb shwarma that I would like to try is at Sofra, but I have read some mixed reports. Even more alarming is the picture of it on their own website. It depicts a grey sliced meat (to be sure not spam), but lacking a grilled brown edge, smothered in thick yogurt sauce. That is not encouraging.

        On that last point let me be clear, I have no objection to the combination of yogurt and lamb. It is one of the great flavor creations of Middle Eastern and Indian cooking, but in the case of s/d/g it should not be allowed to overwhelm the taste of seared lamb flesh and fat. The issue is not yogurt as such, but the ratio of yogurt to lamb.

        1. re: VivreManger

          Wow this is shaping up to be a remarkable thread

          1. re: Luther

            I am not at all an expert but I will second Family restaurant as the place whose lamb I prefer - their doner wrap sandwich is always moist, tender and flavorful. On the chicken front, I find Garlic n Lemons spicy chicken schwarma with garlic sauce the best I've found. In general, Family's food is very good and extremely well-priced. Their vegetables, particularly at lunch on their steam table, are exceptional.

            1. re: teezeetoo

              I'll third the enjoyment of the doner at Brookline Family. Not sure exactly how it's made.

              -----
              Brookline Family Restaurant
              305 Washington St, Brookline, MA 02445

          2. re: VivreManger

            I agree....It's all about the lamb.
            Good lamb doesn't need to be flavored with a marinade or spices. You might as well use beef kebabs.
            Had some suprisingly pretty tasty lamb kebabs at that restaurant Jasmine Taste of Persia on Mt. Auburn St. in Watertown recently.

            1. re: Infomaniac

              i completely disagree w/ you about marinating lamb and i would bet you don't really mean that, when you think about it. lamb has aways been my preferred meat of all of them and a good marinade is a great thing.

              1. re: opinionatedchef

                I always mean what I say.

                To me, if it's lamb I buy from Blood Farm in Groton I want to taste it, and I have a very basic madinade as I stated two years ago here. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/664455

                If I buy the lamb at Market Basket which to me has very little taste, I'll marinate it one way, and that's also in the link about a recipe that alwayscooking posted which I gave a shout out for.

            2. re: VivreManger

              Vivre, authenticity seems pretty important to you. Given that I also l like my Israeli falafels with a few french fries in them, take my rec's with a grain of salt. I'm pretty ecumenical in my tastes. That said, you might try Farm Grill in Newton as well. Sofra has an outstanding lamb schwarma sandwich, but it's totally unlike what you are considering authentic. Theirs is made with meltingly tender braised lamb.

              -----
              Sofra
              1 Belmont St, Cambridge, MA 02138

              1. re: newhound

                That lamb sandwich at Sofra is awesome.

                -----
                Sofra
                1 Belmont St, Cambridge, MA 02138

              2. re: VivreManger

                I had a chance to try the both lamb and chicken shwarma at Falafel Corner in Harvard Square. It was, in my unqualified opinion, pretty good. We ate in the store and also had the grape leaves and a bird's nest for dessert.

                It was good stuff. The lamb was tasty, not dried out. The cucumber + bean salad under the grape leaves was topped with feta crumbles and tasty mint leaves mixed in.

                Disclaimer: I've never eaten Shwarma in anyplace more exotic than Toronto, Boston, Chicago and Minneapolis.

            3. re: VivreManger

              A few years ago I had a nice fatty spit cooked lamb gyro at Farm Grill, served with a side of attitude.

              1. re: VivreManger

                vm, you are MY kind of CH. thank you so much for taking the time to write all this.

                1. re: VivreManger

                  By the way, the price and lack of use of lamb in Jerusalem is less health driven than you think. One of the main drivers is a little known complication in making kosher lamb. The best meat of the lamb is his leg, but to make it kosher, all the major veins of the leg must be removed with a surgeons precision. While this issue also exisits with beef, the ratio of best meat of the creature to vein removal is decidedly better, thus making the labor costs of such efforts far more feasble and budget friendly. In the US, this issue makes it nearly impossible to find kosher leg of lamb outside of NYC....kosher producers just ship the shanks and sell the rest of the lamb leg to un-kosher producers rather than deal with the fuss.

                  1. re: InmanSQ Girl

                    The same problem exists with porterhouse/t-bone steaks. Rib steaks, I believe, by contrast avoid the vein problem.

                    1. re: InmanSQ Girl

                      And on the prevalance-of-turkey issue-- I believe that turkey is a relatively easy food source to cultivate in Israel, and IIRC, there have been some national initiatives to do so. I tried to research this more but when you search turkey and Israel, google give you lots about Israeli-Turkish relations.

                    2. re: VivreManger

                      "The Israeli version of shwarma could not get away with burying the product in garlic-yogurt, because of the requirements of kashrut". I was just in Israel a couple of weeks ago and tons of shwarma places, all with yogurt based sauces. Yes, there certainly are kosher places too, that don't do that. Rami's in Brookline is kosher, and so don't offer yogurt sauces either.

                      Keep in mind that the vast majority of Israelis do not keep kosher, and freely eat meat and dairy together, as well as eat shellfish. Pork.....not so much that I saw. Lamb.....YES!

                      1. re: Science Chick

                        Yes most Jews in Israel are not religiously observant, but a significant part of the market is strictly observant and another part of the market is sentimentally observant. In other words it would be difficult to make money with a mass market non-kosher product as a standard readily available street food. With the growth of the Russian quasi-Jewish market the demand for non-kosher foods has grown, but that still remains a niche market.

                        Sure in Haifa and north Tel-Aviv with a significant secular population one could sell lamb and yogurt shawarma, but typically the best shawarma (along iwth felafel) stands in most Israeli cities are in lower middle class open public market and central bus station areas where the product has to sell fast and appeal to the greatest number.

                        A Sofra shawarma would not make it there.

                        -----
                        Sofra
                        1 Belmont St, Cambridge, MA 02138

                      2. re: VivreManger

                        VIVRE, one thing i'm a little confused about. can one visually tell if the Boston area shwarma looks 'right ' when it's on the spit? from your posts, it sounds like sometimes you can tell and sometimes not. Do you expect to see fat dripping down? isn't the outside/first layer usually more well done than the interior? and why wouldn't you want the inner layer? does anyone ever baste theirs or is that just supposed to be handled by the desired layered fat? thanx for the education. when i go try Jerusalem (NO Chs have posted on it here; strange) and others in Allston soon, i want to go in guns loaded(more informed that is).

                        1. re: opinionatedchef

                          The Wikipedia article to which I referred earlier begins with an excellent description. "Shawarma is made by alternately stacking strips of fat and pieces of seasoned meat (beef, lamb or marinated chicken) on a stick—an onion or tomato is sometimes placed at the top of the stack for additional flavoring. The meat is roasted slowly on all sides as the spit rotates in front of, or over, a flame for hours (see rotisserie). Traditionally a wood fire was used; currently, a gas flame is common. While specialty restaurants might offer two or more meat selections, some establishments have just one skewer."

                          The best should have a crown of onion or tomato at the top, above a layer of fat. Layers of fat should be layered throughout the skewer and should be visible. The smell of seared lamb fat should suffuse the air. The interlayering of white fat and darker flesh should be prominent. The sight of browned meat should be clear at the point of near contact with the heating element. I suspect that the shawarma would be better in the Arab areas, perhaps within or just outside the Old City walls near the Damascus gate. You might have luck in Mahane Yehuda, but I think Pourma has taken over there. I don't know Tel-Aviv as well, but again Jaffa which has a lot of Arab restaurants and the remnants of its Arab population might offer better shawarma choices.

                          1. re: VivreManger

                            thanks for that info. you realy have seen layers of fat on the shwarma spits in our area?( and just fyi, i meant Jerusalem Pita and Grill in Brookline, reviewed by Nadeau in Jan but which no CH has mentioned that I can find.)

                            1. re: opinionatedchef

                              When you do a CH search, try clicking the button to expand it beyond the past 12 months - here are two earlier threads:
                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/589938
                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/657438

                              1. re: Allstonian

                                thanx much for that reminder, A.

                                didn't sound good back then in' 09 but nadeau reviewed it positively in 1/11 and he doesn't usually like crummy places.... but if no CHs are posting about it, I think I'll skip it. Besides, it seems v expensive and i'm looking for flavor, not kosher.

                              2. re: opinionatedchef

                                My fat layer recommendation was in response to your request for advice about Jerusalem. I have seen nothing like that in the Boston area, but perhaps this thread will encourage some local restauranteur.

                                1. re: VivreManger

                                  Yes, yes, but I'm disappointed you're here, posting on CH at nearly 5:30 on a night when you promised us you'd be at Winsor eating hotpot and reporting back (using the P word). Get thee to Chinatown, Satan (or, at least, VivreManger).

                                  To the mystified (if they care): http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/776638 .

                        2. The problem I have with GnL's scwarma is that they only use a single pita. Real schwarma places use a double pita wrap.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: jgg13

                            Ha! I will offer the standard riposte: not if it's handmade and thick enough.

                            http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                            1. re: jgg13

                              i'm often slow to the take but i got this one, j.

                            2. Garlic 'n Lemons has a very good sauce. That's what makes their food stand out. The shwarma itself is otherwise typical. I've not found any great difference in meat taste from place to place. As for other than chicken, I like the spicy chicken but it is still chicken and lamb isn't.

                              You should try Esperia Grill in Brighton center to see if you like their kabobs and gyro. I like their food; it tastes like it's made in small batches.

                              If you want a good flat bread, pick up an afghan bread from Quebec at Haymarket. They arrive fresh and soft for Friday - and then are sold progressively older all the next week, so buy on Fri or Sat. Totally better fresh.

                              -----
                              Esperia Grill
                              344 Washington St, Brighton, MA 02135

                              Haymarket
                              Blackstone St, Boston, MA

                              Garlic 'n Lemons
                              133 Harvard Ave, Boston, MA 02134

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: lergnom

                                yes, i intend to try esperia, thnx. great moniker btw.

                                1. re: opinionatedchef

                                  I can write with both hands at the same time, one as the mirror ... thus ...

                                  The bechamel at Esperia is velvety in the mousaka & pastistio. Their roast chicken is very lemony and their Greek roasted potatoes are the best I've had around here.

                                  Garlic 'n Lemons seems to me to mix a more Armenian spicing with Lebanese food.

                                  -----
                                  Garlic 'n Lemons
                                  133 Harvard Ave, Boston, MA 02134

                                  1. re: lergnom

                                    Funny, and all along I was thinking 'legerdemain' , which actually is appropriate per your self- description. But then i also just realized that finally someone has done the backwords word trick. finally. I actually have looked for that in monikers for years but i have never found an example of it before. Ah, it must be the nancy drew in me......

                                    i will be following your suggestions at esperia soon; thnx. i'll be the one walking in as mcslim is walking out.

                                2. re: lergnom

                                  That bread is also available at Russo's and Arax.

                                  1. re: lergnom

                                    o.k. mong, so we did get to Esperia today and I owe you one BIGGG merci! I'm putting it in its own thread- to call attention to them, but needless to say, both the pork gyro and the moussaka were excellent. Actually, best moussaka i've had other than my own; what a treat!

                                    -----
                                    Esperia Grill
                                    344 Washington Street, Boston, MA

                                  2. I imagine you could include tacos al pastor in this discussion, too. Would love to hear about places that do this really well. Taco Loco and Lupita in Somerville are two traditional ones, I believe. Most that I've had locally, like at Angela's, are a kind of simulation (though not necessarily terrible): grilled with some chopped pineapple thrown in, not vertical rotisserie cooked. I tend to think it's not going to be great unless you specialize in it, and that approach is not popular at Mexican-genre restaurants around here.

                                    My favorite lamb versions are at Brookline Family, Farm Grill and Falafel Corner (easily their best dish -- ironically, their falafel is really bad). I'm also a fan of the turkey shwarma at Rami's, and the pork gyros at Zo.

                                    http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                    -----
                                    Brookline Family Restaurant
                                    305 Washington St, Brookline, MA 02445

                                    14 Replies
                                    1. re: MC Slim JB

                                      Wha? I know for a fact that I have seen folks slice meat off a vertical rotisserie for my tacos al pastor at the Harvard Street Anna's. Do they not do this at every location?

                                      1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                        Could be: I haven't been to an Anna's in years.

                                        http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                                          Kind of uncool to randomly dis them by name, then. Especially if you're doing so incorrectly.

                                          1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                            Um, who's dissing them? I've never been one of the many vehement critics of Anna's here; my attitude toward them could best be described as indifferent. I'm glad to hear they have some things that some Hounds seriously like. I haven't tried their tacos al pastor or green chili pork, will give those a shot sometime. I never saw anyone order anything but a super-mega-burrito there, and as I have often said, I'm not really a fan of those anywhere.

                                            Are you maybe thinking that by Angela's, I meant Anna's? Because by Angela's, I mean Angela's Cafe in Eastie. I love that place; it's my favorite Mexican in Greater Boston. And I like their tacos al pastor, even if they're not doing them on a vertical rotisserie. As I said, non-traditional doesn't necessarily mean terrible.

                                            http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                            1. re: MC Slim JB

                                              Jenny, MC said Angela's, not Anna's. Oddly, though, youre both right. I've had pastor at Anna's, where they have the spit but often make your tacos from a bin of the pork that's pre-sliced and waiting in their assembly line.

                                              1. re: newhound

                                                This is not a promising indicator. I have dissed the shwarma at the Sami's truck and South End Pita for pre-slicing: that's clearly a bad idea.

                                                Does Anna's ever serve their tacos al pastor fresh-sliced off the rotisserie? Is timing involved, e.g., do you have to go at some off-peak hour to get them freshly cut?

                                                http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                  well, this is odd.i have rarely had an opposite reaction to a place you have reviewed. We tried Falafel Corner in harv sq at 9:30 tonight after a film. the lamb shwarma was pre-sliced, sitting in a hotel pan type warmer. it was major grey and tough but very ample.(maybe because the friendly egyptian guys there seemed to get a kick from my [limited] arabic.)

                                                  the babaganooj was way inferior to azama's and garlic 'n lemons (both of which are smoky rich) and was not smoked. But , get this, i really liked the falafel ! so much more than that at the other spots I've tried. Soft textured and very appealingly spiced.

                                                  OT, because i did not ask about pastor in my OP, but the Anna's in Davis Sq. is the location where i have had v good pastor and chile verde pork.

                                              2. re: MC Slim JB

                                                You're right, I did completely misread Angela's for Anna's -- possibly because I've never even noticed that Angela's had pastor on the menu. My apologies.

                                                1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                                  Not at all: I always welcome suggestions, would love to find something that had been hiding under my nose. Any thoughts on which Anna's outlets are better than others?

                                                  http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                    The only ones I've ever eaten at are Harvard Street and Beacon Street in Brookline, and in my experience, Harvard is consistently better than Beacon.

                                                    As Newhound says, there's a bin of pre-sliced pastor on the line, but at the Harvard location, I've found that -- especially if it's not busy -- if I ask them to make my tacos al pastor with meat fresh off the spit, they will. Two or three or four of those and a glass of horchata make for a lovely lunch.

                                          2. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                            hmmm, pastor at anna's. that and the green chile pork are consistently excellent there and the only things we get. i always think that people who knock anna's must not have tasted these 2 things there.

                                            1. re: opinionatedchef

                                              The different locations vary wildly in terms of quality and turnover, which probably accounts for a good deal of the difference in opinion.

                                          3. re: MC Slim JB

                                            this is a bit confusing. 'lamb versions' refers to lamb kabob or shwarma? if the former, are any of them marinated? if the latter, out of what pool?does the pool include the places in the thread title?

                                            1. re: opinionatedchef

                                              I thought we were talking about shwarma/doner/gyros here, so that's what I meant, didn't distinguish between them. Kabob-kabobs are generally cut into chunks, then marinated, then grilled; the others are marinated, layered on the spit with alternating leaves of fat, rotisseried, then sliced off.

                                              http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                          4. By far the best shawarma I have had in Boston was at Sabb's on Route 1 in Norwood.. watching them cut it off the vertical rotisserie's is great lunchtime experience..

                                            I have not seen an al pastor setup close to how I ate them in Mexico City, but I do enjoy Anna's version of it. I have not explored East Boston's taquerias well enough, but my fave has been Tacos Lupita near Porter. Hartford has some good Mexican street food as well if you are passing through - I love the food court at La Mercado on Park St.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: grant.cook

                                              Sabb's is legit! Both chicken and lamb right off the spit. I have to say, I'm not a fan of lamb. But here it's good enough to be palatable for me so I'll have it every now and then. Maybe it's because they blend in slices of beef to mellow the lamb. After all, they are also a halal meat market so they need to use some of that extra "aged" beef. Since their shawarma doesn't go flying off the spit, it can be dry on occasion. Their pickled condiments really help make the sandwich.

                                            2. Shawarma King in Coolidge Corner makes a great roll up sandwich. I prefer the lamb.

                                              -----
                                              Shawarma King
                                              Brookline, MA, Brookline, MA

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: Berheenia

                                                The Wikipedia article about shawarma is quite good. It is global in geographical reach and gastronomic thoroughness.

                                                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shawarma

                                                As time permits over the next few weeks I hope to track down these various recommendations and will try to report back. Happy hunting and eating to all.

                                                1. re: VivreManger

                                                  I should add that the Wkipedia definition of shawarma includes al pastor meats and many other variations so it is quite inclusive, even more wide-ranging than the span (NOTE: not spam) of this article and than the the span of my waist, if I actually eat at every place mentioned here,

                                              2. I know you said you were'nt impressed by them, but I'd encourage you to give Rami's in Brookline another try. I have always really enjoyed their lamb shwarma (though they don't always have it).
                                                http://www.yelp.com/biz/ramis-brookline

                                                There is also Garden Halal Restaurant on Blackstone Street, Boston. Total hole in the wall, but really tasty shwarma and other prepared dishes ( had the best cauliflower of my life there, oddly enough) . http://www.yelp.com/biz/garden-halal-...

                                                -----
                                                Rami's Food Products
                                                324 Harvard St, Brookline, MA 02446

                                                24 Replies
                                                1. re: InmanSQ Girl

                                                  " ( had the best cauliflower of my life there, oddly enough) . "

                                                  isn't it fun when we have these odd unexpected little food epiphanies?!

                                                  1. re: InmanSQ Girl

                                                    I've had Garden on my list forever: glad to hear it's worth a look.

                                                    http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                    1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                      Forget Felafel Corner. I tried their so-called lamb shawarma. Burnt fingernails and sawdust. You know the shawarma is lousy when the vegies taste better than the meat. Had I allowed them to stick it in the hot sandwich press, the results would have been even worse. The heat would have dried out any taste in the vegetables.

                                                      Those presses are OK for pannini, but they should never have been allowed to touch Middle Eastern sandwiches whose delight lies in the contrast between cold fresh vegetables and hot felafel balls or meat.

                                                      I was dubious about the sharwarma even before I entered the shop. The on-line menu described the sandwich as lean lamb and beef. SHAWARMA SHOULD NEVER BE LEAN. If you want lean, don't make it and don't eat it. The best lamb shawarma should be dripping with lamb fat. The proper solution to the fear of fat is to make it smaller, but still fatty. Unfortunately in the supersize US of A, small is evil. The result is that the portion is so large that it cannot be allowed to contain the proper quantity of lamb fat.

                                                      My expectations were further diminished when from the counter I looked at the meat on the spit, black, dry and shriveled. Admittedly it was 9:30 PM, but the place is supposed to be open late so this should not have been left-over time.

                                                      Still I decided to sacrifice myself for the team. I am not sure which is worse Wrapro or Felafel Corner. This sandwich is a travesty.

                                                      To give them the benefit of the doubt, perhaps earlier in the day, the meat might be moister, but given the absence of fat in the core recipe, I am not optimistic.

                                                      Where can I find greasy lamb shawarma?

                                                      1. re: VivreManger

                                                        I haven't been back in nine or ten months, since I visited Felafel Corner for my Phoenix review, but it was nothing like you describe. The sandwich didn't go anywhere near a press (agreed, that's extremely odd), was cut fresh off the rotisserie in nicely irregular chunks from different sized layers on the spit, loaded with lovely fat, pink inside and charred outside, not oversized. It was gorgeous.

                                                        If you experience is typical, I would call that a Downhill Alert.

                                                        http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                          As I've mentioned in a couple threads before, Felafel Corner II in Harvard Square struck out for me the first time I went there, when not only did my felafel sandwich go into a panini press, it was pressed AFTER it had already been wrapped in wax paper!

                                                          It turns out you cannot peel melted wax paper off a sandwich.

                                                          1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                            Do you remember what time of day you hit the FC? Monday at 9:30 PM is not prime time for prime shawarma. Maybe earlier is better?

                                                            The server, named Danny on the bill, moved the sandwich towards the hot press without my prompting. I asked him to desist and he did. I told him those things are only good for Italian sandwiches and he grinned.

                                                            1. re: VivreManger

                                                              Gotta say, I have never heard of a Middle Eastern place using a press: freaky! My visits were all lunchtime or mid-afternoon, if I recall correctly. Probably have been five or six times total.

                                                              http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                              1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                Moodys in central square uses a press for their sandwiches

                                                                1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                  Actually I witnessed a sandwich press in action at one of the Middle Eastern places on Beacon Street in Coolidge Corner, perhaps Shawarma King, but I am not certain. It was several years ago. Perhaps since then they have sold the press to the dry cleaner next door?

                                                                  -----
                                                                  Shawarma King
                                                                  Brookline, MA, Brookline, MA

                                                                  1. re: VivreManger

                                                                    shawarma king has been using a press on their roll-up sandwiches for years and continues to do so... don't know if it's "authentic" to do so or not, but I really like it.

                                                                    1. re: skordalia

                                                                      A sandwich press works well with cheese and vegetable sandwiches in which the vegetables should melt and blend with the cheese. But in sandwiches containing fresh vegetables part of whose appeal lies in their cruncy crispy character, most notably lettuce, pickles, fresh peppers, cucumbers, etc. a hot press destroys the distinctive appeal of those ingredients.

                                                                      1. re: VivreManger

                                                                        or maybe it just lightly toasts the bread and gently warms things up and enhances the deliciousness? shawarma king does not destroy anything- they know what they're doing over there.

                                                                        1. re: skordalia

                                                                          Warm lettuce and cucumber!!!!

                                                                          1. re: VivreManger

                                                                            dude, relax. they don't use either of those at the SK.

                                                              2. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                well, seems that both vivre and i had v bad experiences at 9:30 at night, so maybe we should avoid that timing and try it earlier in the day. or not.

                                                                1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                                  Clarification:

                                                                  Earlier I wrote,

                                                                  "Still I decided to sacrifice myself for the team. I am not sure which is worse Wrapro or Felafel Corner. This sandwich is a travesty.

                                                                  To give them the benefit of the doubt, perhaps earlier in the day, the meat might be moister, but given the absence of fat in the core recipe, I am not optimistic."

                                                                  Looking it over I realize that the antecedent of "them" is unclear. The word refers only to FC. I ate at Wrapro around 11:45 AM when the shawarma should have been in its prime. So its faults cannot be excused by the lateness of the hour.

                                                                  As for the problems of FC at 9:30 PM. This place offers itself as a late-night hangout. The hours are Mon-Sat 11 am - 3 am, Sun 11 am - 12 am. If already by 9:30 PM the product sucks they should remove it and replace it with a fresh skewer offering fresh meat. Perhaps the shriveled skewer should be sold to Charlie's Kitchen next door to grind into their hamburgers. CK's hamburgers do not claim to be Mr. Bartley's after all. (Over the years I have eaten my share of CK's hamburgers and I can testify that dried shawarma meat would not lower their quality. Actually, supplemented with enough additional beef and lamb fat, it might be a much tastier product than either their conventional burgers or FC's shawarma.)

                                                                  Having taken two hits for the Shawarma team in greater Harvard Square I am reluctant to try FC at their putative prime time. But I am willing to walk by earlier in the day to gaze upon their meat and pass judgment. Others more rash than I are welcome to taste it.

                                                                  As for their Pourma (chicken shawarma), it looked much better on the vertical skewer than the lean lamb-beef. At 9:30 PM it was more than three times the size of the reduced-fat lamb-beef skewer. Had it attracted fewer customers in the course of the day, or had the first chicken skewer been finished and replaced with a newer one? Can't tell.

                                                                  In serious shawarma establishments they have multiple verticle skewer machines. Before one skewer of meat reaches its end, they start a new skewer on the second machine. As a result they always have some meat in its prime. They use the old well-fatted skewer near its end for the crispy bits and the newer for the moister bits so they waste nothing. But this can only work with the proper investment in equipment and a properly fatty product.

                                                                  -----
                                                                  Charlie's Kitchen
                                                                  10 Eliot St, Cambridge, MA 02138

                                                                  1. re: VivreManger

                                                                    hmmmm, i DO wish more people either a)took the time or b) had the talent- to write like you.I'm guessiing it's an age and background thing, but whatever, i really enjoy your writing.

                                                                    1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                                      To each his own. It is noted that Max Perkins edited both Hemingway's and Thomas Wolfe's novels.

                                                                      1. re: aadesmd

                                                                        I'm guessing this statement means something clever to you, but aside from the fact that the 2 had v different writing styles,i have no idea why you think this is relevant.

                                                                        1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                                          In my clumsy way, wanted to indicate that great writing takes on many forms. Must be an "age and background thing" Sorry for the lack of relevance.

                                                                    2. re: VivreManger

                                                                      I can't comment on the lamb shawarma because I always get the chicken, but I love it at Sabra in Harvard Square. It's one of my favorite lunches as a plate with r ice and salad or a sandwich. (with garlic and hot sauce). And a rose-scented lemonade or a freshly pressed carrot juice.

                                                                      Sabra is just around the corner from Felafel Corner, which I didn't think was good at all! The gentleman who runs Wrapro used to work at Sabra--I found Wrapro super salty.

                                                                      If you're willing to try again, I'd suggest Sabra rather than FC.

                                                                      1. re: dulce de leche

                                                                        hmm, good idea. i used to like sabra's lamb.

                                                            2. re: InmanSQ Girl

                                                              BTW I really have to try to get to Blackstone Street. In addition to life-transforming cauliflower, that area also has some halal butchers who carry a wider range of meats and cuts than the typical supermarket.

                                                              I have tried Farm Grill in Needham once. However I did not taste the shawarma. The other dishes were OK, but not worth a second out of the way trip. The next time I have reason to get out that way, I will follow-up that recommendation.

                                                              1. re: VivreManger

                                                                I think Farm Grill's lamb gyros is very, very good, and it's the real thing; chicken gyros is no slouch, either. Also worthy rotisserie chickens and grilled octopus salad. Cafeteria-style atmosphere, but hey, free parking!

                                                                http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                            3. Does anyone have an opinion about greek corners gyro or lamb roll ups?? and how it compares to the other places list in this conversation?

                                                              -----
                                                              Greek Corner Restaurant
                                                              2366 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02140

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: lc02139

                                                                I love Greek Corner but I think it might be nostalgia talking. When compared head to head with better Mid East places (I like Garlicky Lemons and Shawarma King especially) I think it comes up short. I'ts closer to my house than the places on the other side of the river, and sometimes you just need to scratch that gyro itch STAT.

                                                                Edited to add: they are of the "cone" of gyro meat school, that is no layered skewers of meats. But then I have always liked the gyro cone, so it's not a deal breaker for me.

                                                                -----
                                                                Greek Corner Restaurant
                                                                2366 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02140

                                                                Shawarma King
                                                                Brookline, MA, Brookline, MA

                                                              2. I like the chicken schwarma wrap at Aceituna in Kendall. They have a hot sauce they'll put on it if you ask that is the best tasting stuff. I asked them what it was and they said they get it concentrated from somewhere (Turkey? Can't remember) and they mix it up. They have chicken and beef, no lamb I believe.

                                                                -----
                                                                Aceituna Cafe
                                                                605 W Kendall St, Cambridge, MA 02142

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: MrsCheese

                                                                  that is interesting. the woman owner of Garlic 'n lemons used to work at aceituna (yum) and maybe the 2 schwarmas are v similar. GNL 's spicy chicken schwarma is the one i love, w/ the special saj bread.

                                                                2. Azama grill- Best Shawarma in Boston
                                                                  Had the Azama Combo with lamb/beef shawarma, excellent flavor. Best I've had in the Boston area. Felafel was tasty and crisp with tahini sauce. Baba Ghanoul was properly smoky with great texture. Egyptian salad was good. Hummus and tabouli could be better seasoned.
                                                                  I had the same seasoning issue at Al Wadi wednesday. A little salt or lemon would have pulled it all together

                                                                  -----
                                                                  Al Wadi
                                                                  1249 Vfw Pkwy, Boston, MA 02132

                                                                  1. Interesting to scan through discussion.... To me, what ruins all the Shwarma in Boston is the bread--crappy, packaged flat bread that adds an acidy, cheap sort of taste to the whole experience. (Best Shwarma I had was in Paris where you had to wait 1/2 hour for them to bake it fresh...)

                                                                    Does anyone know a place in either Boston or NYC where they make the bread themselves?

                                                                    (p.s., I do agree with the point of "fat-phobia" also playing a key role--really fatty, rich lamb seems like a basic requirement)

                                                                    29 Replies
                                                                    1. re: jon44

                                                                      jon, not the same, but plse keep in mind that garlic 'n lemons has an option of SAJ, the thinner flakier bread. really neat.

                                                                      1. re: jon44

                                                                        Esperia doesn't bake their bread in-house, but it's way above average, looks more handmade than I usually see, and their pork gyros is excellent.

                                                                        http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                          The garlic and lemons saj, and the Esperia pita, though not house baked are far superior to the supermarket pita most places use.

                                                                          1. re: kimfair1

                                                                            kim, want to thank you again for steering us to esperia. one of our few regular spots now!

                                                                            1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                                              Anytime! Actually I think this week, I'm feeling the need for some pork gyros or moussaka!

                                                                        2. re: jon44

                                                                          I believe that Boston Kabab House bakes their own pita (they are small, puffy and delicious), but I think they only have Kabab's and Falafel sandwiches on them...don't recall seeing any Shwarma.

                                                                          As for your NYC question, Olympic Pita in Midtown, bakes their own pita and laffa and their (nicely fatty) shwarma sandwiches are out of this world.

                                                                          1. re: keith

                                                                            I notice from their menu that they have a whole wheat pita......do they bake this themselves too? How does their falafel compare to Fordee's or Rami's? I didn't know I could get a whole wheat pita/falafel in Boston.....we always have to get our fix at Taim in the Village in NYC!

                                                                            1. re: Science Chick

                                                                              Finally got to Boston Kabab Company in Allston for a falafel in pita--It was really great! My fave in this region has been Rami's, but this sandwich is a strong contender--plus about $4 cheaper. Better than Fordee's for sure. Recently had Clover's version, also cheap and excellent, but this had a nice herby freshness--a little parsley/mint-great hot sauce--all came together quite nicely :)

                                                                              Not as good as NYC's Taim or Azuri Cafe though.

                                                                              Thanks for the tip Chowhound!

                                                                              -----
                                                                              Boston Kabab Company
                                                                              164 Brighton Ave, Boston, MA 02134

                                                                            2. re: keith

                                                                              Sorry, I meant Boston Kabab Company in Allston. Haven't actually eaten at Boston Kabab House in the financial district.

                                                                              For the Boston Kabab Company. Their falafel is quite good, greener (more parsley) than Fordees, and a bit more tender. Haven't had Rami's in a while, so I can't compare.

                                                                              -----
                                                                              Boston Kabab Company
                                                                              164 Brighton Ave, Boston, MA 02134

                                                                              1. re: keith

                                                                                Sounds promising.....we'll check it out! Still, I wonder about that bread at Boston Kabab House........

                                                                                1. re: keith

                                                                                  The pita at Boston Kabob Company is excellent. It it is just a small whole pita, with no holes in it that is baked, so the hot air expands with this huge bubble in it. Nothing exotic, just made very well.

                                                                                  Unfortunately, they used to include the pita along with Hummus, tabouli and maybe another dip with every plate. They no longer do this, so you will have to order it on the side, or it may be included with the Veggie plate.

                                                                                  They do still include homemade pickled vegetables and olives though. Everything I've had there has been excellent, mixed grill (Beef and chicken kabobs, and kafta), lamb kabobs, and lamb chops (The portion of meat for the chops was on the small side though.) I don't know if they use a charcoal grill, but it certainly tastes like it. Again, nothing out of the ordinary they do with the cooking, just well executed home made style food.

                                                                                  1. re: keith

                                                                                    thnx much for the heads up.

                                                                                    menu:
                                                                                    http://www.allmenus.com/ma/boston/296...

                                                                                    reviews:
                                                                                    http://www.yelp.com/biz/boston-kabob-...

                                                                                    1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                                                      Hit up Boston Kabob Company Sunday afternoon, as Garlic 'n Lemons was closed for the weekend. My wife had the excellent beef (wish it were lamb) kafta sandwich on some of the yummiest house made pita I've ever eaten. I could see the cook making the pita in back. I opted for the kafta plate with very good rice pilaf, grilled green and red pepper, 1/4 grilled tomato, some grilled onion, and a grilled hot pepper. It came with a simple salad of chopped tomato, cucumber, oil and vinegar. This, along with hummus was also on the sandwich. I really enjoyed the plate, but would pay extra for a pita to go with the meal. I had a bit of the sandwich, and a small piece of the (still warm) bread when it came to the table. The bread was just great, perfect for their sandwich.

                                                                                      -----
                                                                                      Garlic 'n Lemons
                                                                                      133 Harvard Ave, Boston, MA 02134

                                                                                      1. re: kimfair1

                                                                                        Allstonian and I hit Boston Kabob Company for dinner tonight before the Ed Askew and Bill Callahan show at Brighton Music Hall next door. Allstonian had the veggie plate and I had the lamb kabobs.

                                                                                        I have repeatedly proclaimed that the best falafel in town were at Fordee's. This is no longer true. Boston Kabob Company's falafel positively trounces Fordee's: homemade (you can tell by the slight differences in how firmly packed they are, not to mention the fact that you can see the cook shaping and frying them to order in back), excellently seasoned and perfectly cooked. I'm waiting for an excuse to leave home for lunch soon, because a sandwich of those falafel in the (equally awesome and also housemade) pita and a Vimto is about to become one of my default neighborhood lunches.

                                                                                        Similarly, the lamb kabob (at $10.99, the second-priciest item on the menu) was just perfectly cooked, crusty, tender and juicy. Since we were about to go to a club, I decided to salute one of my old post-gig guilty pleasures (a doner kebab and fries) and get the fries instead of the rice. I'm sure the rice is also excellent, but I was pleasantly surprised by the fries: that squared-off size that's about halfway between shoestring and steak fry, well-salted immediately out of the fryer, soft-centered with crispy edges. Had I been drinking tonight, they would have done an excellent job of balancing the booze.

                                                                                        We were glad to see a steady business in there at 7 p.m. on a Sunday, which you'd think would be a slow night. I'd like to see this place stick around.

                                                                                        1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                                                                          I haven't tried them yet and would be very interested to hear how you think their food compares with Azama's(my go-to so far for falafel roll ups and lamb kabob roll ups).

                                                                                          1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                                                            No contest on either count. Azama is fine, Boston Kabob Company is better. Azama may in fact be in serious trouble, because if it comes down to a head-to-head battle, the fact that BKC has both better food and a notably less dismal seating arrangement for eat-in orders means it wins on both counts.

                                                                                            1. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                                                                              definitely no need to battle, according to the mods.Just food to be enjoyed. azama is sooo unattractive for sitting there; def never want to do that. But for their excellent food and wicked late night/ actually 2am is early morning- hours, a great source.

                                                                                          2. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                                                                            Could you describe the falafel texture in more detail? I'm really looking for a fried-to-order falafel that is appropriately gooey inside, and preferably highly loaded up with green herbs.

                                                                                            1. re: Luther

                                                                                              The felafel were not gooey, and I'm not sure I would have found it "appropriate" if they were - that doesn't actually sound appetizing to me. They had a rather grainy interior texture of coarsely ground chickpeas, and yes, quite well loaded with green herbs.

                                                                                              Tabbouleh, baba ganoush, and hummus were all very lemony, and the hummus was garnished with a dollop of tasty chile paste.

                                                                                              The guy behind the counter said that he was having trouble over the weekend with his oven, so the pita that came with my veggie platter was not as usual, although they were still baked in-house - it was large and thin, with big crisp bubbles that reminded me of naan.

                                                                                              1. re: Luther

                                                                                                They were definitely soft inside under a crisp crust, but not gooey. And yes, they're vividly green inside.

                                                                                                1. re: Luther

                                                                                                  i had a faafel roll up at azama the other night and it was tremendous and as close to gooey as i have found here.

                                                                                                  -----
                                                                                                  Azama Grill
                                                                                                  54 Harvard Ave, Boston, MA 02134

                                                                                                  1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                                                                    I'm at a loss as to the gooeyness you describe. A good falafel should be crisp on the outside and tender but relatively dry on the inside, certainly not gooey. The only gooeyness I could think of would be from the tahini and pickles also in the wrap/sandwich, but not from the falafel itself.

                                                                                                    Are you actually looking for a falafel itself (the chickpea fritter) to be gooey on the inside? What caused this to be your measure of a falafel's greatness? Seems very non-traditional.

                                                                                                    1. re: keith

                                                                                                      I like moisture. A juicy burger is the best kind, and similarly a juicy falafel is the best. Fresh-fried is essential because as they cool they get grainy and dry rather fast. The best I've ever had is at Hoomoos Asli in NYC... very moist and gooey with a crisp exterior. It's pretty easy to make at home if you put enough herbs in with your chickpeas and favas, but of course the oil is a hassle to deal with.

                                                                                                      1. re: Luther

                                                                                                        Moist, juicy and gooey are three separate things, though. The falafel at Boston Kabob Company are quite thick, crisp on the outside and moist and tender and soft on the inside. The only way I can think of to get juicy or gooey falafel would be to undercook them a bit. I guess you could ask the guy to pull them a minute early if that's what you really want...

                                                                                                    2. re: opinionatedchef

                                                                                                      Had another Azama falafel roll up today and compared it to the Boston Kabab Company's falafel pocket. Azama's was not gooey today; rather a little on the dry side. BKC's was greenish but not vividly green inside, and it was moist and we both thought it's flavor better than Azama's. The reason included the lovely homemade pita pocket, the salad of cukes, tomatoes, pickles and the SPICY dressing ( we were both surprised at how hot it was). The same spicy sauce,soft pita and salad made the lamb kabob pocket also better than azama's roll-up, though the lamb was not trimmed enough and had awkward chewy muscle parts. Thnx for the tip you two.

                                                                                                      1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                                                                        I find Azama also has dry, creepy-textured chicken--I had to stop going there even though I like everything else about their sandwiches (and free Wi-Fi).

                                                                                                  2. re: Jenny Ondioline

                                                                                                    Just went to Boston Kabob Company (Allston) for dinner and now I am sad that I wasted a year of not knowing they were there. Started with the potato salad which sounds a bit weird but tastes fabulous, cold mashed potatoes with olive oil, lemon, garlic and peppers, served with a fresh-out-of-the-oven pita that nearly burned my fingers, and a small dish of pickles and olives that tasted homemade. Since I was torn between the lamb kabob pita and the falafel pita, I ordered the lamb kebab one with a single falafel on the side. This came on a small bed of carefully shredded romaine with a drizzle of tahini over it and it was indeed fantastic: bright green with herbs, straight out of the frier, crisp on the outside, almost creamy on the inside. The lamb kebab was also fantastic and was a 7 or 8 napkin affair, due to the generous filling and lovely spicy garlicky sauce. OK so WAY too much food and no way anyone could have wrestled any of it away from me. Can hardly wait to go back with friends and order one of everything. Extra pitas are .99 for one, 3.99 for five and I would say worth every penny. Oh and I saw someone else's "Signature Vegetarian Plate", which had 6 falafel with tahini, and good-sized piles of hummus, baba ghannouj, middle east salad, tabouleh, together with the pita and bowl of olives and pickles -- loads of food for $9.99, and it all looked gorgeous.

                                                                                                    1. re: GretchenS

                                                                                                      Their falafel sandwich as big as my head (and I have a giant meaty Irish head) for $5.99 is one of the greatest value-for-money equations in town, especially when you consider the incredibly high quality of those falafel.

                                                                                                      1. re: GretchenS

                                                                                                        glad to be reminded of this spot and will go back soon! i too learned about it from jenny/barmyf. lucky campers are we!

                                                                                          3. Glad to see this thread back in action. All of my friends are eager to get shawarma after seeing The Avengers :)

                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: Boston_Otter

                                                                                              Yep - we went to Garlic 'n' Lemons the next night.

                                                                                              1. re: Boston_Otter

                                                                                                Also thanks to this thread I've been getting the Boston Kebab Company's felafel sandwiches pretty regularly over the last six months. The combination of the fresh felafel (freshly done for every order so far as I can tell) and fresh bread is great and though I don't feel the sandwich tastes of much else, it doesn't really need to.

                                                                                                For comparison, I've had a couple more Azama roll-ups in recent weeks and specifically went for the felafel. While I think the Azama felafel roll-up has more complex flavour and is usually spicier than BKC's, the underlying felafel just isn't as tasty or fresh. They seem a bit on the hard, dry side.

                                                                                                Anyway, thanks to those who bigged up BKC as I would never have even noticed it otherwise.

                                                                                              2. For those in the Salem/North Shore area looking for a good Shwarma i found a great little convenience store that makes (on top of the best Pizza in the area for the infamous New York Style lovers) a really good shwarma, lahmacun, fresh made baba ganoush, hummus and Tahini. It's called White Dove Market. I have the good people at the blog North Shore Dish to thank for this find.

                                                                                                1. I recently had the chicken shwarma at Cafe Beirut in J.P. (formerly Sami's), and *oh my god*. I haven't travelled to the Middle East, but I lived for many years overseas in an area with a huge Middle Eastern population and lots of awesome Middle Eastern food at all price levels; and I have to say that Cafe Beirut's shwarma blew away every other one I've ever had.

                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: TimTamGirl

                                                                                                    I have to second the Cafe Beirut love. I'm a giant fan of the lamb shwarma there. Actually, I'm a fan of everything there. Have been slowly making my way through the menu and have not had a bad experience yet.

                                                                                                    1. re: Kirs

                                                                                                      this is great to hear as we are headed there soon! on the Brains thread, Gourmaniac is also liking the kibbedeh at Roksana's near Watertown Sq.

                                                                                                      http://www.roksanas.com/our-menu.html

                                                                                                  2. After I recommended Armenian Market's huge schwarma roll up on another thread, a few CHs tried it and didn't like it particularly (though many raves from other CHs.) Sadflour recommended the Lebanese cafe, Aceituna, by Kendall Sq., so we had a late lunch there today. I'm sure they get super packed 12-1 but it was relaxing and quiet when we went. And we found a parking space right there, what a surprise. An attractive sunny space with colorful cushioned banquettes and cherry-finished tables and chairs.
                                                                                                    If you like Garlic 'n Lemons, I'm guessing you will really like Aceituna. The GnL woman owner used to work at Aceituna and many of the dishes are the same. From my flavor memories of GnL, I preferred the Aceituna versions, but GnL is excellent.
                                                                                                    We ordered a bit of many things to try.My Love really enjoyed both the chicken and beef shwarma. I found the chicken dry but the beef had alot of flavor and wasn't salty at all. It was soft enough that it was a bit pasty (maybe too long in an acidic marinade?) but still tasty.Both of them tasted unique, made in-house,not like other schwarmas I have had in Boston. My fav meat roll up was the marinated beef shish kabob, which was grilled right there with a little onion and green pepper, and combined wih pickles, lettuce, tomato, pickled turnip sticks, and tahini dressing . Per my request, they cut up the grilled beef after it was cooked, and boy did that make it easier to eat. I'm going to request that from now on. The beef was very tender and flavorful, with a waft of cinnamon and herbs.

                                                                                                    My faves were that and the Daily Special- Makloubi- a very toothsome rice piaf cooked in stock and combined with braised beef cubes and caramelized fried eggplant, which is served with yoghurt on top. I'd be perfectly happy with a plate of that and the Mousska - a cold salad/compote of Eggplant, chickpea and rich tomato sauce. (I'm one of the few who doesn't like chickpeas, but this dish could make me change my mind.) The rice and lentil pilaf was also a hit with us but those reddish cubed potatoes were way too hot/ spicy for us. (I don't associate the MidEast with hot spicy dishes so this was a surprise to me.) The shredded iceburg house salad has the same components as the roll ups- turnip sticks and pickle spears and crummy tomatoes. It is dressed with an oil and vinegar and sumac dressing that i really didn't like- too acidic. Next time I'll ask for tahini dressing instead . Aceituna's website and the cafe have many photos of the foods, and the servers who prepare your food are very upbeat and helpful.

                                                                                                    I know if I worked in this area, I would prob eat here quite frequently. What do other CHs think of it?