Some people have a sweet tooth. Me? I have a shawarma tooth. There are few foods I crave more than a big plate of fresh-off-the-spit (or grill) shawarma. Maybe it's the Lebanese part of my heritage or maybe it's the unmistakable succulence that only shawarma provides. Sadly, I did not grow up with a shawarma spit in my house, but thankfully there were plenty of places serving shawarma relatively close to home.
Shawarma is one of those dishes that grows with you. When shaved off the spit, the chunks of wondrous meat are bite-sized chunks or shreds – perfect for a child's fingers. As you grow up, fingers give way to utensils and a chunk of shawarma ends up on a fork with some rice and a dollop of toum (Middle Eastern garlic sauce). Finally, adulthood arrives and so does your desire for a more complex shawarma delivery module – hot, pillowy pita bread. Cut open pita, scoop in shawarma, toum, a bit of tomato, pickles, and (if you're feeling frisky) a couple of fries. It's supreme shawarma satisfaction.
Shawarma can be prepared a couple of different ways, namely on a rotating spit or on a grill. Though the rotating spit may be considered more authentic, tasty shawarma can be made with either technique. There are times, happens every week to me, where the shawarma craving hits me hard. While I am always up for trying new shawarma spots (tell me your favorites with a comment below), I do have a few go-to spots that I would recommend with confidence.
Try these metro Detroit shawarma hot spots
As you probably know, we have Dearborn, the epicenter for Middle Eastern cuisine and culture outside of the Middle East, in close proximity to us. Warren Avenue, located in Dearborn, is home to a multitude of Middle Eastern restaurants. Simply visiting any of the dozens of restaurants on Warren is a safe bet, but here are a couple must visits:
Al-Ameer recently was recently named one of James Beard's American Classics. Only five restaurants were chosen nationwide, so this was an incredible honor. Over the years, Al-Ameer has grown both in physical size and notoriety. The huge restaurant is quite often filled and for the good reason. While the James Beard Foundation might not be concerned with shawarma specifically, Al-Ameer's version is delightful. A blend of white and dark meat gives the chicken shawarma pleasant texture without drying out. Al-Ameer bakes their own bread, so fill one of those warm, fluffy loaves with a scoop of shawarma, a dollop of toum, and get after it!
Hamido has two locations, one in Dearborn and another in Dearborn Heights. Upon entering, your eyes will quickly notice the two huge spits glistening as they rotate over the fire, one is chicken, the other is meat (usually a mix of beef and lamb). Hamido's chicken shawarma is primarily white meat, but it maintains supreme succulence. In traditional preparations, meat and fat alternate layers on the shawarma spit, which means the meat can cook all day and remain moist. Remember, fat is flavor and the rendered fat is one of the reasons shawarma tastes so good.
You might be surprised to learn that a place with falafel in the name has incredible shawarma, but Rafic's Falafel does shawarma right. Marinated at least 24 hours, Rafic's chicken shawarma is equal parts charred and tender. The sandwich I devoured had three elements: shawarma, pickles, and toum. Given its simple composition, the sandwich was a perfect method to highlight the shawarma and not distract with a multitude of toppings.
Bucharest Grill has built an empire on their chicken shawarma. Having gone from one location inside Park Bar in Detroit to three stand alone locations and a fourth on the way. It's quintessential Detroit drunk food. Grilled chicken, fries, cabbage, garlic sauce, and tomatoes all wrapped in a pita and waiting to be devoured. If sober, this sandwich is incredibly salty and can be overpowering, but under the right conditions, it will hit the spot – just don't expect to make out with anyone afterwards.
Where to go
Al-Ameer - http://alameerrestaurant.com
12710 W. Warren Ave - Dearborn, MI 48126 - (313) 582-8185
27346 Ford Rd - Dearborn Heights, MI 48127 - (313) 565-9600
2100 N Haggerty Rd - Canton, MI 48187 - (734) 667-5316
Bucharest Grill - http://www.bucharestgrill.com
1623 Michigan Avenue - Detroit, MI 48216 - (313) 965-3111
2684 E. Jefferson Ave - Detroit, MI 48207 - (313) 965-3111
110 Piquette Street - Detroit, MI 48202 - (313) 965-3111
Hamido - http://www.hamidorestaurant.com
13701 W Warren Ave - Dearborn, MI 48126 - (313) 582-0660
25412 Ford Rd - Dearborn Heights, MI 48127 - (313) 562-8888
Rafic's Falafel - http://raficsfalafel.com
6905 Schaefer Rd - Dearborn, MI 48126 - (313) 551-5092
Joe Hakim is here to help us all discover amazing food and dining experiences around metro Detroit. Look for his Joe Foodie columns each week on WXYZ.com.