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Three Shwarmas and a Gyro walk into a bar...

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Based on a previous post, I decided to do the comparison thing with 4 places in the last couple of weeks: Beef/Lamb Shwarmas from Garlic and Lemons, Fordees and Saab's Market and a pork Gyro from Esperia.

Garlic and Lemons: Good but not great. Bread and veggies and sauces are good but the meat tastes strange to me. Overtenderized as to be mushy and not flavorful despite the marinade (~$7).

Fordees. Worst of the lot. I love their falafel so I was hopeful that they knew their way around a shwarma. My first clue should have been the lack of a vertical spit. A plastic container of loose meat was griddle fried and placed in a wrap similar to their falafel. Cubes of beef, oversalted and underspiced ($8)

Saab's Their grill at the back of the market was the real thing. Two vertical spits (chicken and a mix of beef and lamb) properly topped with peppers etc. When ordered, the cook sliced a generous portion as it spun past the heater, placed the slices onto the pita, veggies, turnip pickles and then sauced with tahini and a sprinkle of dry spice. The shwarma was wrapped in foil and lightly pressed to warm the pita. Really good flavor and texture and good balance to the meat and veggies ($5) and a very generous portion at the lowest price. The chicken shwarma has french fries in the wrap , which I recall from Paris shwarma stands and always enjoyed (what isn't better with fries except dessert?).

Esperia I love the bread here. It is griddled and slightly greasy in a good way. The bread is much better than the other three. Thin sheets of pork on a vertical spit thin sheets that are then griddled. Not the ground product, which is tasty in its own right. Not exactly a shwarma but I include this cuz its just so darn tasty ($7).

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  1. Thanks for sharing the results of your research. Does the pork gyro from Esperia have the usualy veggies on it?

    1. Glad to hear Saab's served you well.. I work just down the street - $5 for a good shwarma. Make sure to order it with the works - I need my garlic sauce in there..

      1. Gretchen: Yes, the pork gyro comes with the usual vegetables and sauce. RE Saabs. This place is a chowhound gem. I would go there frequently if I lived nearby.

        1. Where is Saab? And here I've been thinking I have to go back to the 5th for french fries in my shwarma!

          4 Replies
          1. re: ebaba

            Norwood on Route 1 near Dean Street. Fries only come with the chicken and not the meat shwarma though.

            1. re: gourmaniac

              Its in the corner of a plaza, next door to an Ocean State Job Lot on the outbound (away from Boston) direction of Route 1.

              1. re: grant.cook

                http://www.sabmarket.com/index.html

                chowhound isn't letting me add or update database entries lately...

                1. re: okra

                  link

                  -----
                  Sabb's Market
                  1001 Boston Providence Hwy, Norwood, MA 02062

          2. what a great thread title; love it!! so sorry GnL disappointed; i really hope it was an off-day because we've been anxious to get back ever since our great spicy chicken schwarmas and mousaa last month.We finally had the esperia pork gyros last night. Wow, such a deal!Thought it was terrif.

            For reference, here is the link to the long, related thread:

            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/776199

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

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

            2 Replies
            1. re: opinionatedchef

              OC Glad you liked the thread title and Esperia Grill. I've also enjoyed the pastistio there. Jenny, I'd like to get to the Waltham store both for the groceries and the food court. The oen time i tried kebab and tandoor, i liked it and I love food bazaars. What else is there (how many stalls)?

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

              1. re: gourmaniac

                Only two. The other one sells fried chicken.

            2. Incidentally, we ate at the Food Bazaar in the basement of the newly expanded (and fantastic) Waltham India Grocery last week, and although we didn't have them, I noted with approval that the shwarma were of the vertical-spit-with-separate-interleaved-meat-hunks style as opposed to the more common loaf-o'-meat. I'll have to try one of those next time, but I had no complaints about my spicy chicken kebab rollup.

              1. There used to be (I mean 22 years ago!) a wonderful truck that would park on Oxford Street in Cambridge, outside Harvard's Science Center, that made an amazing shwarma. I think the truck moved to MIT. Does anyone know if it's still there?

                2 Replies
                1. re: somervilleoldtimer

                  i used to frequent that truck weekly. when it was parked on Oxford Street. The shwarma was tasty and was the Kronos pressed meat type. I also recall an OK Chinese food truck there.

                  1. re: gourmaniac

                    That's right! I had forgotten about the Chinese food. It was something of a tussle about which to have for lunch. I still think about that shwarma, I have to confess.

                2. There are some great Shwarma in Lawrence. Mounirs and Jims kabob. The one I always get is the Steak/Cheese/Salad Shwarma. I don't know but in Lawrence when you order a steak/cheese/salad, the only way to order S&C, it comes with salad in side the wrap. With a great side of fries. O ya the owners of both these restaurants are BROTHERS!

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                  Mounir's Restaurant
                  34 S Broadway, Lawrence, MA 01843

                  1. For the record, I hate this thread! I will now worry about the day the prices go up and the quality goes down at Sabb's. No thanks for sharing.

                    BTW, Sabb's is a middle eastern market first and foremost. It has to be one of the cleanest and neatest markets I've ever been to. I swear the owner is OCD.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: jscout

                      scout, while i would go there in a heartbeat if i were in the area,i'm not; and i think you are very safe (unfortunately?) because norwood is far for so many of us. But for others, you know how wicked lucky you are.

                      1. re: jscout

                        I was eating there when they were $4 a piece.. I haven't tried Cedars other than shopping there as a market - its easier to access Sabb's on Rt1 than head into Norwood proper, and if I am in Norwood Center, I often feel the call of;.. wait for it.. the Lewis Burger..

                        1. re: grant.cook

                          I never thought a Lewis Burger would be referenced on Chowhound. That made my day. For those unaware... at Lewis's, the king of all dive bars, they serve a fried burger patty topped with lettuce, tomato, cheese, cold cut ham, and egg salad on a hamburg roll. It's no joke. I'm not sure how to describe the taste, but I must admit that I've had more than one with a beer over the years.

                        2. re: jscout

                          I tried my first one the other day at Sabb's - chicken with the works. It was ok, nothing I would crave. Liked the counterpoint of the pickle. Really went to see if they had good pita and mistakenly bought some funky flavoured lebanese bread that looked like fresh pita. Just not my taste, but others may love the sandwich and the bread.

                        3. Great thread - and highlighted in the Chowish email!

                          I live near Norwood and love Shawarma. Saab's is good, but I like Cedar's in Norwood Center better for a nearly identical style of Shawarma. Both are also great markets if you're looking for authentic Middle Eastern ingredients, but I would give the edge to Cedar's for that category also.

                          For your next round of testing, I would highly recommend Shawarma King and Rami's for very different styles of the same thing. Both are in Coolidge Corner in Brookline and they are worth the trip. Rami's is Kosher Israeli street food style (open pita, not wrapped), and Shawarma King is closer to the Saab's / Cedar's style but with more spice.

                          Enjoy!

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

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Foodie_BBQ

                            Thanks for the recs. I have been to Rami's many times but can't seem to escape the gravitation pull of their excellent falafel with hot mango pickles. Surprisingly, I've not tried Shwarma King given its proximity, but will do so based on this thread. Not in Norwood that frequently, but Cedars sounds like another must try. Nice to have these ethnic pockets in our burbs. I also tried Seema's (Pakistani) and perused through the Halal meat market (Zamzam) that also has a prepared food counter. Years ago, I wrote a thread on Toronto's fine ethnic places in suburban strip malls. Perhaps we have the same here.

                            1. re: Foodie_BBQ

                              ' more spice'. whew. you just saved me fixating on saab's; now i can go to SKing. I had only had their good lamb kabobs before (in my pre-shwarma years that ended last month at Garlic 'n Lemons!)

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

                            2. I had a chicken shwarma today at Sabbs-super fresh pita! Nice crowd waiting for food, staff was friendly and the produce section of the market was great. I walked out with a big bag of food and my shwarma for less than $10. Could have used a touch more spice but darn good for the money. Thanks gourmaniac for mentioning it!

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: carbondiamond

                                I asked the cook for spicy when he prepared my meat shwarma and he added a couple of shakes of a reddish powder that kicked it up a notch.

                                1. re: gourmaniac

                                  ah, the old Red Dye #2. :-)

                                  1. re: gourmaniac

                                    Maybe Aleppo pepper?

                                    1. re: bizkat

                                      Could also have been sumac. Now that Ocean State is farther up Rt. 1 into town, I rarely get here. Nice place. Old world vibe.

                                      1. re: lergnom

                                        But sumac is tart, not hot.

                                2. Wrapro on Mass Ave near Cambridge Common is another place that offers a chicken shawarma with fries in it. I think they call it the hero wrap or something like that. It may be a whiteboard special but it's been there across a few visits over a few months. Unfortunately, it's pretty dry and I wouldn't recommend anyone make a special trip for it.

                                  I would probably have a higher opinion of Wrapro if it was a late-night place. It's ironic that you can eat later in the boozer across the road than in the kebab shop, but as I pinch myself I realise I no longer live in the old country.

                                  1. Finally tried the pork gyros at Esperia, and I have to say: whoa! Really nice, the real deal, excellent char on the outside, tender within, not much more than a garlicky yogurt dressing on it, on very fine (handmade-looking) pita. Hefty sandwich for $8. I think I'd have to call it better than the version at Zo, of which I'm very fond. Worth a trip to Brighton Center.

                                    http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                    6 Replies
                                    1. re: MC Slim JB

                                      hooooRAH! i didn't know when we were going to be able to get to zo. i never HAVE got to chacarero and keep wondering if it's really better than the pork and sweet potato sdwch at Macchu Pichu (my one friend who has had both sdwiches says machu pichu is as good or better.)
                                      and i really do aim to go soon to the villa mexico woman.

                                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                                        Hi Slim: Glad you liked the gyro at Esperia. i agree it's better than Zo but Zo is also pretty good. Esperia has better bread, a little more meat that is crisped a little better.

                                        1. re: gourmaniac

                                          go, maniac! vindicated BIG time!! we tried to go last night after a CH jaunt from Mixx to S and I to Esperia, but it was closed so we went to Garlic 'n Lemons, where the spicy chicken was good but definitely dry compared to last time. but s and I was a bit disappointing too for same dishes that were excellent last week. I think I decided late Sunday night not a good time in general .

                                          For me I think it will alw be Esperia because that moussaka is so outstanding.That's actually what we were going for last night- lots to take home and then freeze some. It freezes well (for those who must trek to get there.) btw, IF you can get the woman chef/owner's name, i want to add her to my list of women chef/owners in boston. thnx again!

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

                                          1. re: gourmaniac

                                            gourm and kimfair, if you're ever feeling down in the dumps, plse remember us and the fact that you have added greatly to our lives by telling CH about Esperia! We try to get there every week now; we went yesterday and snuck in both pork and chicken gyros for a quick sustenance break in between a film marathon at the MFA. We both agreed that THIS is the place for us, above all the other spots we've sampled. So much flavor, terrif bread, and twice as much protein as anywhere else. And the gyros reheat really well in a toaster oven (wrapped most of the time and then unwrapped to crisp bread the last few minutes.) So BIG thanks to you two and anyone else who gave earliest CH heads ups on Esperia!

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

                                            1. re: opinionatedchef

                                              Try the moussaka or pastistio at Esperia because her bechamel is wonderfully smooth.

                                              1. re: lergnom

                                                yes, nom, agreed.I have raved about that moussaka on a number of threads!! we always get it for later when we pick up the gyros.

                                        2. We recently completed a massive sampling of shwarma and kabobs at : Esperia, Shawarma King, Fordee's, Garlic 'n Lemons and Azama(we had ruled out Falafel Corner before this)

                                          We preferred the SHWARMA of:
                                          -- Garlic 'n Lemons (spicy chicken schwarma) excellent 2 visits; dry ugh one late Sunday night.)Bonuses of garlic sauce, saj bread- thinner/flakier/better than pita, super delish mouskaa(eggplant/tomato/chickpea side)

                                          --Esperia (pork, and eight ounces!!- that's huge!!) on chewy thick pita, griddled crispy ; tsaziki sauce. Bonus- take home some terrific Moussaka for dinner later.
                                          ================
                                          --Fordee's ( Losh kabob,not a spit-schwarma but ground lamb/beef skewers, grilled; meat mixed with herbs, very moist); tahini sauce.
                                          ===============================
                                          [-Azama's- no, but because I dislike cinnamon in meat; many others love it; Shawarma King- nothing special ]

                                          --------------------------------------------------
                                          Of the lamb and chicken KABOBS tried at all of the above spots except Esperia, we preferred:

                                          Azama- most flavorful marinade, moist meat. Bonus- super Mouskaa side salad and Avocado side salad. (Only major drawback of Azama is the gross shop itself, so we always do take-out.)

                                          -----
                                          Fordee's Grill
                                          555 Mount Auburn St, Watertown, MA 02472

                                          Esperia Grill
                                          344 Washington Street, Boston, MA

                                          Azama Grill
                                          54 Harvard Ave, Boston, MA 02134

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

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: opinionatedchef

                                            Thanks OC. Azama has been on my to try list for a while.Looks like I'll go for the kebab vs the schwarma on your scouting

                                          2. Why no love for South End Pita!
                                            We've been twice in the last week, chicken shawarma both times, totally delicious.
                                            Pita crispy and soft at once, excellent tahini, good kick if you ask for it and a nice crunch from pickles (I think?). Really tasty, fresh, filling but not heavy. And $5.50.