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Shawafel -- Best Inexpensive Food in the Atlas District

Lebanese lamb/beef and chicken shawarma -- made from scratch, not from those gross prefab meat cones; felafel; hummus; labneh; etc. No frills. Just really delicious, fairly-priced food from Alberto Sissi. If and when he upgrades the pita and the drinks, it'll be worth a trip to the Atlas District of its own accord; for now, it's where you should eat if you're in the neighborhood and not at the Atlas Room and not interested in the wait at Toki. (In fairness, I haven't tried Ethopic yet.)

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  1. Atlas District:

    Ethiopic is pricey, about $17 per person for a main dish. So I'm thinking it's not really in the same category. Vegetarian platter for two is $35. Kitfo was $16.

    Do not wait at Toki. Personally, I wouldn't go back even with immediate seating. But it is inexpensive.

    Have you been to Star and Shamrock?

    Shawafel will be my next stop!

    4 Replies
    1. re: Steve

      I disagree on Toki. I would definitely wait in line for it. Keep in mind the chef has improved his stock and noodles according to a recent review in the....City Paper? Can't remember where I read that.

      Thanks for the review on Shawafel, it is on my list!!

      1. re: Steve

        I had the shish taouk at Shawafel a few weeks ago and was pretty happy with it. Only request would be to shove a pickle in there, so I might ask for that next time. Otherwise, the place looks clean, and both the chicken and lamb looks awesome.

        Ethiopic is one of the best on H St. I tend to go for the veggie platter and kitfo as well.

        I'd say believe the hype re: Toki. Early visits were disappointing, but in the past 3 months or so, the broth has really hit its stride. Compares favorably to some of my favorite ramen in NYC (Momofuku, Minca, not yet approaching the goodness of Ippudo). The folks that work there are all great as well.

        I was not at all happy with the food at Star and Shamrock. Latkes were a soggy, greasy mess, and the pastrami sandwich had maybe 3 super thin slices of pastrami on it. Of course, maybe I wasn't in the best frame of mind to enjoy my food as the "DJ" was blasting top 40 crap in my ear the whole time (this was relatively early on a weeknight). I'd try it again if people say this was an off night.

        The Queen Vic is a solid option, and the new chef seems to be doing quite well. The fish and chips are still as good as ever, and we had a chef's special the other day of sweetbreads and braised lamb with brussels sprouts that was fantastic...just don't plan on doing anything requiring physical exertion afterwards.

        I've had decent BBQ a few times from Inspire down on the West side of H. Their cole slaw is a thing of beauty.

        1. re: JoshNE

          Certainly if Toki has gotten better, then maybe their basic tonkotsu is something to try as it is certainly cheap. In that case, I'd consider going back to be the first one there and not wait on line. But I hold out little hope for their shortcut of taking a tonkotsu stock and adding soy bean paste to make a miso ramen. Their 'flavored' tonkotsu ramens were awful. The lunchtime tonkotsu ramen special (once a month) at Sushi Taro is superior.

          I didn't like my one attempt at Momofuku at all. One dimensional stock, although his toppings and noodles are unbeatable. Right after Momofuku I visited the Yokohama Ramen Museum, and I immediately realized why I disliked Momofuku so much.

          My sandwich at Star and Shamrock was not thin at all, but I am more intrigued by some of their unusual hybrid offerings. My one visit was in the late afternoon, so no blaring music.

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          Sushi Taro
          1503 17th Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20036

          1. re: Steve

            Yeah, I don't really go for the "flavored" ramen broths. Basic tonkotsu + hot sauce is typically what I go for.

            I used to live down the street from Momofuku, so I have a real soft spot for that place.

      2. I love Shawarma and Falafel, but the choice of name is a bit unfortunate, if the quality goes South I can hear the nickname now.

        5 Replies
        1. re: hill food

          I was thinking the same thing--probably poorest choice of name I've heard since E(b)ola.

          1. re: PollyG

            Strange, I moved from NYC last year, and up there, tons of places offer the Shawafel as a sandwich option (half falafel, half shawarma), so it seemed perfectly normal to me.

            1. re: JoshNE

              This is because there is a significant number of commenters on blogs that are going to find a reason to hate some way or another.

              I don't see anything wrong with it, the guy who opened it is fantastic AND trying to make a living doing this. People have NO idea how hard this is to do, how time consuming it is, and how much the people who do it want to succeed.

              1. re: Alisterio

                no one is saying the idea is weird, just the name could be turned against the place if they go downhill someday,

                exactly why I expressly stated I love the two things, I just didn't get all gushy that the two together could only be better. sorry. no hate here to pounce on, just a marketing concern.

                1. re: Alisterio

                  It just so happens there is a Shaw neighborhood in DC, so my immediate reaction was Shaw + Awful. That might not be the case in NYC.

          2. Wow what a horrible name for a restaurant. When I first saw the posting I thought it was making fun of some awful falafel place in Shaw. haha

            6 Replies
            1. re: Elyssa

              I tried the Falafel at Shalafel the other day (in the vegetarian platter) and it was not awful, but I can't say it was more than just okay. And at 11 or 12 dollars the meager veggie plate was not cheap, and the pita was really not so hot, as someone already noted. I asked for hot sauce and got a US commercial brand. Truly great Falafel (for $8) can be found at Eastern Market on Sundays in the flea market next to Hine--all imported Israeli toppings, excellent sauces, soft and tasty pita, and the felafel itself is incredibly tasty.

              The ribs at Inspire on H are ordinary, but the sides are all excellent and I will be back to try the brisket, which I suspect will be better than the ribs.

              1. re: mdavidf

                How does the falafel at the Eastern Market compare to Amsterdam Falafel?

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                Amsterdam Falafelshop
                2425 18th St NW, Washington, DC 20009

                  1. re: woodleyparkhound

                    I've tried them all, and I wouldn't say the Eastern Market version is better than either of those. Especially since they don't fry the felafel fresh, as I recall. Of those three I prefer Maoz, actually.

                    1. re: hamster

                      Anyone know why Maoz closed down? Tried Shawafel yesterday and although the falafel wasn't bad the fixings bar at Maoz was awesome.

                1. re: mdavidf

                  I stop by there a few weeks ago and had the Shawarma Platter - I agree with you it was okay, not really cheap, and didn't have the selection of toppings like Amsterdam Falafel.

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                  Amsterdam Falafelshop
                  2425 18th St NW, Washington, DC 20009

              2. I had the Shawafel sandwich last Saturday afternoon - shawarma and felafel - and was really very impressed. Very carefully crafted, lots of picked radish, pickles, fresh parsley, nice flavorful meat, well grilled, good amount of tahini, all the things I'm looking for. I was very happy and have to say it's the best sandwich of its kind that I've sampled in DC. I will definitely be returning.
                Also excited to hear about a new Indian place opening down the street with entrees under $10...

                1. I trust the ingredients are all top-notch, but my Shawafel sandwich tasted only of tahinhi and parsely, of which there was quite a lot. I'll go back, but next time holding the sauce. I am wondering if there is an alternative sauce.

                  Also, I got the tabbouleh. It was almost all parsley, so I don't recommend it.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Steve

                    I returned to Shawafel for the baba ganoush and the tabbouleh. The baba ganoush is excellent with a gorgeous smokey background, and the tabbouleh had a really nice flavor this time. Perhaps it had a bit more time to marinate. I will go back for more items.

                    1. re: Steve

                      Glad to hear it! I was just there last Sunday, and it seems like every time I go I see a Middle Eastern family eating there.

                      I was a little disappointed in my shawarma sandwich this time; it was a tad greasy and not enough tahini. I will try chicken next time.