The Best of Beirut
on Jun 5, 2014 By Danielle Issa
Picture this: alternately stacked strips of fat and seasoned meat - chicken, beef, lamb, soujouk, fish even - slowly roasting on a rotating spit for hours in front of a flame. The meat soaks up the juices, donning a tenderness and flavor no marinade could ever match. While cooking, the meat is shaved off the stack with a large knife, allowing it to fall into a shallow circular tray below. The meat is then scooped up into an open pita sandwich, garnished with a slew of toppings, and slathered with either tahini for beef shawarma or garlic paste for chicken. Once wrapped, the shawarma might be dipped into the fat dripping from the skewer and then briefly seared against the flame.
Salivating? I won’t draw out the misery. Here are my top five picks for an unforgettably mouthwatering shawarma fix in Beirut. Moist, succulent, seasoned, euphoric…okay, okay, I’ll stop.
Image via Wordpress
Joseph in Sin el Fil is a veritable factory, churning out delicious wraps bursting with falafel, shawarma and more. Go for the no-frills shawarma - first chicken, then beef (for a taste that will linger all day) - and delight at the sight of your sandwich being prepared. If you want to avoid the guilt, you can ask for a lean cut of meat without the fat. Be sure to request extra aioli for your chicken: nothing spells shawarma like huge dollops of garlic paste slathered on your sandwich.
Mar Elias Street
Image via Foursquare
Mano has become a household name in all things basterma, a spiced air-dried beef prepared in the traditional Armenian way. But would you ever guess that Mano also crafts one helluva shawarma soujouk? For the uninitiated, soujouk is a dry cured sausage made of ground beef and spiced with cumin, sumac, garlic salt and red pepper. Fairly salty and admittedly fatty, it makes for one supreme sandwich filler. Tomatoes and pickles lend it a juicy lift. I dare you to walk away without ordering seconds. Wash it down with a chilled Ayran.
Image via Fadtoush Blog
Shawarma Show is a far cry from your typical, greasy, sidewalk shawarma joint. In fact, the restaurant exudes sanitary excellence, as the five shawarma spits (beef, lamb, chicken, soujouk and fish) are housed behind a thick glass enclosure, shielding the meat from dust and pollutants. You get to customize your sandwich: bread type (white or brown pita, French bread, tortilla wrap), veggie fillings (the whole gamut), and sauces (they even serve guacamole!).
Stuff it any way you like, and revel in its meatiness. You will love the hammour shawarma, a lightly seasoned, super moist, delicate, un-fishy fish wrap.
Image via Shawarma Show Facebook Page
Not to be outdone, Abou Shawarma, a relatively new addition to Sassine Square, introduces six different shawarma options: beef, chicken, soujouk, hammour fish, and the real trailblazers, kebab and halloumi cheese! Pretty mind-boggling, huh? For the weight-and nutrition-conscious, you’ll love the fact that Abou Shawarma’s chicken is 100% pure breast; the fish, too, is a hammour filet, which is very light and healthy. If you’ve disavowed meats altogether, you can opt for the halloumi shawarma, slathered with tapenade and pesto in addition to all your favorite veggie fixings. And be sure not to miss the only kebab shawarma in town!
Image via Abou Shawarma website
No doubt one of the oldest shawarma institutions in the country, Boubouffe recently upgraded from a quick-service hole-in-the-wall to a full-fledged sit-down restaurant on the main Geitawi highway. Their shawarma sandwiches are legendary, and at 10,000 LL a pop, they are deservedly the priciest in town. The chicken, an even mixture of thigh and breast, is seasoned, tender, and substantial. The beef is enriched with layers of lamb fat that give it a distinctively strong flavor. Try the chicken shawarma platter-style (26,000 LL). This hearty and generous dose of chicken comes complemented by the freshest, crunchiest, and tastiest French fries this town has to offer.
Charles Malek Avenue
Image via No Garlic No Onions
Danielle Issa is a food blogger in Lebanon. You can find her on Twitter, and be sure to check out her blog, Beirutista.
Hi Mario, thanks for your comment. While Barbar is certainly a contender for good shawarma in Beirut, we combed the city over for exceptional shawarma slightly off the beaten path. Give one (or all) of our picks a try, and let me know what you think!
barbar? helllooooo ????
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