Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Greater Boston Area >
Feb 4, 2014 05:50 PM

The Shawarma Place, Davis Square, Somerville

Tonight, I wanted someone else to cook for me so I convinced Mr. SMT to try this new spot in Davis Square. I never stepped foot into this space when it was WingsToGo, or whatever, so I have no idea if any decorating occurred. I suspect that any decor modifications were minimal since there really isn't much in the way of decor. There are four tables, each with 3-4 chairs, though one of the tables was taken by what appeared to be a family member doodling with pen and paper. I was expecting take out only, so was pleasantly surprised by being able to eat in.

I ordered a lamb and beef shawarma sandwich and a cup of lentil soup. He got the same shawarma as a plate. We should have ordered different things, but that didn't happen. We were greeted warmly by both the cashier, and then by the person actually cooking the food. When asked, we both told him to make our meal the way he would enjoy it. Ordering is done at the food station, and then we sat and waited for our food.

I was a bit dismayed when I saw that he was using a microwave. Turns out that was just for my soup. The soup was a huge portion in a real, ceramic bowl. The lentils had collapsed and the spices were a little spicy, but not quite. It was a really delicious bowl of soup, though just a bit of fresh lemon would have been a nice addition. The soup spoon was plastic.

Our dinners arrived, along with some complimentary falafels. [He was handing out falafels to anyone who walked in.] These are worthy falafels indeed. Very crunchy exteriors with a soft interior. Different style than Amsterdam's down the street, and very good.

My sandwich was filled with lots of meat, and all the traditional toppings, plus cornichon. Are green pickles traditional? I don't believe I have ever had them on shawarma before. The spices and herbs were all very understated; subtle undertones of a complex blend. If one flavor stood out it was cardamon. I think you would have to really like this spice to enjoy this sandwich. I found the sandwich too big, and about 1/3 of the way through, opened up the bread to eat the insides out.

While we were eating, I noticed that the second man in the kitchen was constantly refilling the ingredients in the hotel pans. He must have refilled the salad mix, and cucumbers three or four times. They were making about 8 falafels at a time so they never sat out for more than a few minutes.

I thought this food was very tasty, though I would prefer a smaller sandwich so I could have other flavors on the plate. They suggested that next time I tell them exactly what I would like, and they would make me a plate that reflects this.

The plate dinner came on real plates. My sandwich came on paper. Silverware for the two dinners were stainless. I like real silverware and plates.

Since I am not a shawarma expert, I don't know if the flavors are what one should expect with an Arab version. Certainly there was no grill char, just softness with no fat or gristle. I am really looking forward to some reviews from folks who have had more versions of this dish.

Me? I am going to go back and try the Foul Mudamas and the Mujadara which both sound fabulous. I brought a paper menu home. Photos are attached.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. sm, thx for the details. I remember the first time i encountered middle east sandwich pickles and had the same question as you (at Sami's in coolidge corner, iirc.) Anyway, i'm not sure if it is country-of-shop driven as much as country-of-owner driven, this issue of typical toppings in these sandwiches. But iirc, Garlic and Lemons offers spears of pickles and radish/turnip? on theirs, and some places (i.e. the new Noor's in Powderhouse Sq.) offer french fries in the sandwich as well.
    As you mentioned, I would like to hear from others too, esp about the schwarma and kebabas and if the latter are marinated and if the schwarma mixtures are made in-house or bought-in pre-made. They are not carved off a spit, right?(you said they were soft.)

    The Foul Mudamas and Mujadara you want to try-- they do a really good job w/ those at the Egyptian-owned Azama Grill in Allston/Brighton. The middle east cuisines do so many wonderful dishes with dried beans, lentils, and grains. The more i learn about the cuisines there, the more impressed i am by how healthy they are. Thx again for the report.

    2 Replies
    1. re: opinionatedchef

      The meat was on a vertical spit and was a tower of individual pieces of meat and onion. It didn't look like the pre-made cones I have encountered elsewhere. Was just lacking the char I have had elsewhere. The green pickles were a pleasant surprise to me. The other toppings did include the pickled turnip which were also delicious. I don't recall Sami's having the green cornichons, but it has been a while.

      One other note, the meat was not wildly salty either which I always find to be the case with the pre-made versions.

      Next time, I am going to ask for a riff on the vegetarian plate with some of the vegetarian dishes plus a kebob or two. A make-your-own sampler plate. The family seemed very eager to create food that others will like.

      1. re: smtucker

        yes, i agree about your take on the over-saltiness of bought-in schwarma. thx again for the details; look forw to trying it.
        p.s. i just learned about another new schwarma place- in wattown- Armenian Market, and i am considering doing a 'drive here and then drive there' comparison soon!

    2. Had take out from here the other night-- overall a good, fairly-priced option with friendly service. In flavor, it does not compare to Garlic & Lemons which is my gold standard. My DC got the beef and lamb shawarma wrap with all toppings- included red onions, pickles (smallish slices of round pickles, not cornichons), hummus, mayo, lettuce, tomato. They have pita bread which is good, but not as soft and pliable as the saj bread at G&L. They definitely slice the meat to order from a vertical rotisserie. The owner happily complied with my request for a kid's meal by making me a half-size chicken shawarma and charging me half price. The chicken was fairly heavily spiced with what tasted sort of like 5 spice powder, which is new to me in a shawarma. I can't say that I loved it. I had the kafta wrap, which we agreed was the best dish of the bunch. The kafta meatballs were griddled to order and although I also requested all toppings, I realized that this does not automatically include hot pepper relish. The addition of this to my wrap (vs my DC's) made a big difference flavor-wise. We also had a side of baba ganoush which had a good smokey flavor with a hint of tahini, but did not have the ethereal richness of G&L's. We'd definitely eat here again since it's super-convenient and slightly cheaper than say, a Diesel sandwich, but I would not place it in the category of "drive across town for."

      1. Hmm. Just looking at the menu at Noor in Powderhouse online. Anyone been to both for a comparison?

        8 Replies
        1. re: Parsnipity

          i did just that and i posted about 3 places. the long and short of it is 2 words: Armenian Market(andCafe) by the Target in watertown, WOW! Excellent and humongous chicken schwarma roll up. And Noor's has an unbelievable babaganoosh.

          Forgive me if i don't pull up the links but i pulled an all nighter and i am sinking fast. Easiest way to find the threads is to click on my name and go through the threads on my page.

          1. re: opinionatedchef

            Thanks. Am headed there ASAP for the baba. I could eat vats of Garlic & Lemon's and only the traffic and trip over keep me from ingesting my weight in baba- if this is anything close, I'm in trouble...

            1. re: Parsnipity

              Just to circle back: Baba- major advantage to Noor over Shawarma Place. Actual shawarma wrap- advantage shawarma place for kofta, tie for chicken (taking value into consideration- Noor's is bigger, but about $2 more). Excellent friendly service at both. Neither approaches the deliciousness of Garlic & Lemons in any of the foods we ordered.

              1. re: Parsnipity

                snip, so you got the baba? but you prefer it at G&L?
                let me know.

                why do you think it's so light in color?

                1. re: opinionatedchef

                  Yeah, I still prefer G&L hands down. The baba at Noor was not well-blended with some pretty large chunks/strands of eggplant. I prefer the creamy, rich texture of G&L and theirs is also better-seasoned and smokier. I found myself adding a pinch of salt to almost everything at Noor, especially the fries which we ended up with by accident and which were completely insipid. I did like the pomegranate seeds sprinkled on top of Noor's baba, and thought the price was quite low for the generous portion. I found the color to be similar all around- maybe there's eggplant-to-eggplant batch variations?

          2. re: Parsnipity

            Between Noor and Shawarma Place, any opinions on which would have better choices for a vegan?

            1. re: SEH

              I had the vegetarian platter the other night at the Shawarma Place. For me, it was two meals. It was delicious. There is a blob of thickened yogurt but that is the only dairy that I can recall on the plate. A little extra hummus or tahini dressing to replace the yogurt wouldn't be an issue. t detected no dairy or meat in the lentil soup either. Clearly, I would ask if there is any non-vegan items hidden. The family couldn't be nicer, so I am sure that they would answer any questions.

              I haven't made it to Noor yet, so can't comment on their menu.

              1. re: SEH

                she, read through this whole thread and you will see other vegan dishes mentioned at SP, which is the place for you imo.

            2. We tried the Place today and appreciated the generous portions and friendly service. We had a small order of foul, and one chicken and one beef/lamb schwarma plate. The meat was juicy and well seasoned (we also detected a sweetness in the seasoning - perhaps it had cinnamon?), served over an enormous helping of rice. Also included was a dollop of hummus (average) and some salad (which lacked flavor and color). I requested pickles and hot sauce which amped up the dish considerably. It appears to be much more of a take-out place - on a Sat. night my DC and I were the only diners, though there were constant take-out customers. Overall it was hearty and satisfying, but not super delicious. They've only been open a few weeks so we'll definitely give them another shot.

              1. I thought this said "Shawarma Police" and was disappointed in my error. Although, that does give me a good idea....

                1 Reply