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Good shawarma in NYC


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I was reading with interest the thread on "Chickpea" on Astor Place. I just didn’t realize that some people could fall head over heels for a good shawarma, so I’ll be nice and share my little secret :biggrin:

Note to all shawarma lovers out there: having some roots in the middle east, I have roamed around this beautiful city of ours for years in search of a decent shawarma. Some of you might know this already but the stuff you get in the NYU area or on Atlantic Avenue, albeit good, is an adaptation of the original middle eastern shawarma.

The one decent place I know which makes shawarmas that are more reminiscent of what one could eat in the streets of Beirut, is located in Astoria, Queens on the corner of Steinway Street and 28th avenue. It is lebanese owned and is called Al Manara, it serves shawarma (chicken and beef), perfectly seasoned and delicious “kaftas” on skewers, and kebabs.

I would recommend trying it the way it is served in the middle east with sumac flavored onions, tomatoes, parsley, PLENTY of pickles (kabiss in arabic, especially the pickled turnips), tahini, and garlic paste. No lettuce, no hot sauce.

I go there regularly and will try to take some pictures next time.

It is quite a trip in itself but very well worth it.

"A chicken is just an egg's way of making another egg." Samuel Butler
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Pictures? Yes!

Have you tried Alfanoose, on Maiden Lane in the Financial District. Damn good shawarma.

I was reading with interest the thread on "Chickpea" on Astor Place.  I just didn’t realize that some people could fall head over heels for a good shawarma, so I’ll be nice and share my little secret  :biggrin:

 

Note to all shawarma lovers out there: having some roots in the middle east, I have roamed around this beautiful city of ours for years in search of a decent shawarma.  Some of you might know this already but the stuff you get in the NYU area or on Atlantic Avenue, albeit good, is an adaptation of the original middle eastern shawarma. 

The one decent place I know which makes shawarmas that are more reminiscent of what one could eat in the streets of Beirut, is located in Astoria, Queens on the corner of Steinway Street and 28th avenue.  It is lebanese owned and is called Al Manara, it serves shawarma (chicken and beef), perfectly seasoned and delicious “kaftas” on skewers, and kebabs.

I would recommend trying it the way it is served in the middle east with sumac flavored onions, tomatoes, parsley, PLENTY of pickles (kabiss in arabic, especially the pickled turnips), tahini, and garlic paste.  No lettuce, no hot sauce.

I go there regularly and will try to take some pictures next time.

It is quite a trip in itself but very well worth it.

JJ Goode

Co-author of Serious Barbecue, which is in stores now!

www.jjgoode.com

"For those of you following along, JJ is one of these hummingbird-metabolism types. He weighs something like eleven pounds but he can eat more than me and Jason put together..." -Fat Guy

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Have you tried Alfanoose, on Maiden Lane in the Financial District. Damn good shawarma.

I am not familiar with alfanoose, i'l definitely give it a try. As long as the shawarma guy has a thick moustache and asks me if i want "bebsi" with my sandwich :biggrin:

could someone please comprehensively define schwarma?

Shawarma is marinated meat (generally chicken, beef or lamb) that is layered and piled on giant skewers, grilled, and shredded off the grill with a knife. I am sure many of you understand it in terms of appearance however the preparation of the meat itself is what makes shawarma what it is. A good shawarma should be marinated for a long time in essentially a little oil and loads of vinegar with all sort of spices and aromatics. You should be able to taste the acidity of the vinegar.

I will try to have pictures soon!!

"A chicken is just an egg's way of making another egg." Samuel Butler
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Well, the guy at Alfanoose only has a thin moustache, but he takes great care about his food. Everything really fresh.

If you don't like the shawarma, try his vegetarian kibbee. Or his spinach pie. Or his Red Lentil Soup. Or his Tabouleh. Or or or . . . well, you get the idea. We have something from him at least once a week. :wub::wub:

And since you really do know about this food, please report back. I mean, I've only had it here in NYC and in Detroit, never at the source. So I'd really like to hear your opinion, please.

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Years ago I used to regularly go to a pretty good shawarma take-out place right across the street from Columbia U. No idea if it's still there, but it was both good and cheap at the time.

Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

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are all of the mcdougal schwarma places complete shit?

What exactly is a doner kebab (I couldn't find the thread on the differences)

what really makes a good schwarma?

does this come in pork?

My name's Emma Feigenbaum.

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are all of the mcdougal schwarma places complete shit?

What exactly is a doner kebab (I couldn't find the thread on the differences)

what really makes a good schwarma?

Shit? I wouldn't be so blunt as to say that, but you are not far off IMHO.

Doner and kebab are two different concepts. Doner which is a turkish word means "revolving" and it refers to the turkish version of the arabic shawarma or the greek gyro. It is the meat that is revolving on a vertical grill and shredded with a knife. A doner cannot be "kebabed" so to speak since a kebab is meat already on skewers (either cut in cubes as in chich kebab or ground beef as in kafta) that is cooked ON the grill.

So, if you were in Istanbul asking for a doner kebab, you will be most likely asked if you want a doner or a kebab.

What makes a good shawarma? as i stated earlier, it's all in the vinegar!!!!

"A chicken is just an egg's way of making another egg." Samuel Butler
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are all of the mcdougal schwarma places complete shit?

What exactly is a doner kebab (I couldn't find the thread on the differences)

what really makes a good schwarma?

...

What makes a good shawarma? as i stated earlier, it's all in the vinegar!!!!

The owner of Alfanoose told me that his main criticism of most of the shawarma in the city is that very few marinate the meat in vinegar and spices overnight and, in fact, many don't use vinegar at all. The shawarma at Alfanoose is the first I've tasted in which you can taste the vinegar, so I'm hoping you'll like it, zeitoun!

JJ Goode

Co-author of Serious Barbecue, which is in stores now!

www.jjgoode.com

"For those of you following along, JJ is one of these hummingbird-metabolism types. He weighs something like eleven pounds but he can eat more than me and Jason put together..." -Fat Guy

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are all of the mcdougal schwarma places complete shit?

What exactly is a doner kebab (I couldn't find the thread on the differences)

what really makes a good schwarma?

Shit? I wouldn't be so blunt as to say that, but you are not far off IMHO.

Doner and kebab are two different concepts. Doner which is a turkish word means "revolving" and it refers to the turkish version of the arabic shawarma or the greek gyro. It is the meat that is revolving on a vertical grill and shredded with a knife. A doner cannot be "kebabed" so to speak since a kebab is meat already on skewers (either cut in cubes as in chich kebab or ground beef as in kafta) that is cooked ON the grill.

So, if you were in Istanbul asking for a doner kebab, you will be most likely asked if you want a doner or a kebab.

What makes a good shawarma? as i stated earlier, it's all in the vinegar!!!!

aaaahhh, that's what I was looking for.

also, Pan stated on another board that he didn't like a certain kind of schwarma because it was too fatty. I this another criterea for goodness? fat content?

does this come in pork?

My name's Emma Feigenbaum.

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[...]

also, Pan stated on another board that he didn't like a certain kind of schwarma because it was too fatty.[...]

Do you mean when I mentioned that I had a turkey shawarma sandwich at Chickpea that had a large gob of pure fat in it? That's not a criticism of the fat content, but of the presence of a large piece of fat (and also the somewhat unpleasant taste of turkey fat). I've had lamb shawarma with much higher fat content than that turkey shawarma and liked it.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Astoria, Queens on the corner of Steinway Street and 28th avenue.

Hey, are there other places in Astoria that you personally would recommend? AmyDaniel and I are into exploring the Middle Eastern areas of Astoria. They have great food out there, and there seems to be a lot to discover. :smile:

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[...]

also, Pan stated on another board that he didn't like a certain kind of schwarma because it was too fatty.[...]

Do you mean when I mentioned that I had a turkey shawarma sandwich at Chickpea that had a large gob of pure fat in it? That's not a criticism of the fat content, but of the presence of a large piece of fat (and also the somewhat unpleasant taste of turkey fat). I've had lamb shawarma with much higher fat content than that turkey shawarma and liked it.

aah, gotcha...so much for my memory skills. turkey globs, gross.

does this come in pork?

My name's Emma Feigenbaum.

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are all of the mcdougal schwarma places complete shit?

What exactly is a doner kebab (I couldn't find the thread on the differences)

what really makes a good schwarma?

So, if you were in Istanbul asking for a doner kebab, you will be most likely asked if you want a doner or a kebab.

That's actually incorrect. The full name in Turkish for the dish is döner kebap - that's how it appear on menus. "Kebap" in Turkish simply means barbequed meat. (The word "şiş" (shish) means skewer) However, almost 100% of the time, you just order it by saying "doner".

Shawarma/doner/gyro is one of my favorite foods. Here's my analysis of the varieties:

Turkish (döner): From my own experiences, I have found Turkish döner to be the best. Around the city, döner I eat at Turkish places is almost always better than other varieties. I don't know exactly why this is. To my knowledge, the Turkish version has no vinegar and is not marrinated. It's just layers of lamb altneranted with layers of fat, and some seasoning. The traditional way to eat it is with salt, tomatoes and onions, or on a plate with rice. The best I ever had was sebzeli döner in Soutern Turkey - it had chunks of vegetables layered in with the meat and was out of this world. (see pic below)

Israeli: Any Israeli shawarma I've had (including in Israel) has been OK but not great. Maybe its the kind of meat they use? Or kosher? I don't know, but it's usually not as good.

Greek: Anytime I've had gyros in this city, they've usually been disgraceful. A lot of diners have the "ready-made" frozen gyro strips which they throw on the grill and drown with white sauce. I think I had one homemade one in Astoria once which wasn't bad. If anyone knows any good Greek gyro places in the city please let me know! I really hope they don't use those frozen strips in Greece!

Bottom line is this. I'd say from experiecne that 75% of the time in this city, you will not get homemade shwarama. It is a labor intensive and time consuming process to make it - but the places that make their own, no matter the nationality, are always better of course. So that's the #1 criteria.

Some places where I've had great doner around town (all Turkish):

- Bereket (on Houston) (fast food place)

- Turkish Kitchen (more upscale)

- Efe Turkish Market (in Bklyn, believe it or not this food market makes incredible döner!)

- Ali Baba (on 34th St.)

- On MacDougal, Yatagan is the best, and yep, its Turkish

~WBC

Edited to add:

sebzeli döner (in Turkey)

gallery_10642_600_1105571031.jpg

This to me, is the high priest of döner. It's a famous hole in the wall in Izmit, Turkey. The best döner in Turkey is found in Bursa. Supposedly, the guy who cooks in the place below was taught by a famous döner master from Bursa. This was the best I've ever had. (after they serve you, a guy comes around and drizzles melted butter on your meat. MMMMMMM! :raz: )

gallery_10642_600_1105571150.jpg

Edited by wannabechef (log)
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That's actually incorrect. The full name in Turkish for the dish is döner kebap - that's how it appear on menus. "Kebap" in Turkish simply means barbequed meat. (The word "şiş" (shish) means skewer) However, almost 100% of the time, you just order it by saying "doner".

........

Bottom line is this. I'd say from experiecne that 75% of the time in this city, you will not get homemade shwarama. It is a labor intensive and time consuming process to make it - but the places that make their own, no matter the nationality, are always better of course.

Well, you might be right. I was talking from personal experience, it is possible that the guy who asked me that question was being a little difficult. All i know, is that it took me 15 minutes to explain that i wanted a doner and not a shish kebab :biggrin:!!

I would agree with your 75% figure, so as promised i snapped some pictures of the other 25%:

gallery_23913_601_1105577953.jpg

chicken on the left and mixture of lamb/beef on the right

gallery_23913_601_1105578019.jpg

my favorite condiments: tomatoes, onions sprinkled with sumac, pickles (no turnips available that day :sad: ), parsley and a generous spread of mashed garlic

gallery_23913_601_1105577995.jpg

A heavy sprinkle of tahini and voila!

gallery_23913_601_1105577906.jpg

This is another example of what they offer, all sorts of kebabs at the bottom, hommous, bb ghannouj, taboule, mousakka in the middle shelf. Raw meats (that you eat raw) on top.

Just a note to say that i was there on an "off" day unfortunately, the guy who normally prepares my sandwich to perfection (bebsi guy with a moustache) was not there. The chicken shawarma was a little overcooked to my taste.

There is also one other place i like on Steinway St. called Kabab-gi, it just opened a few months ago. When you go, try both places and compare!!

"A chicken is just an egg's way of making another egg." Samuel Butler
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As long as the shawarma guy has a thick moustache and asks me if i want "bebsi" with my sandwich :biggrin:

Ha! It took me two beats to get that...my ear is out of practice. How true. I am taking my spouse to Lebanon this summer to finally meet the family, and Shawarma is top on the list for him, lucky man. Closely followed by the infamous chewy ice cream :rolleyes:

A good shawarma should be marinated for a long time in essentially a little oil and loads of vinegar with all sort of spices and aromatics.  You should be able to taste the acidity of the vinegar.

Amen, and to me that is the difference between a döner and a shawarma that makes the latter superior. It's all in the vinegar -- Lebanese LOVE sour. And the turnip kabis is a must. I haven't had a good shawarma since I left Lebanon. Looks like next time I'm in NY I will have to drag the posse to Astoria.

Edited by Behemoth (log)
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Thanks so much to you knowledgable-about-shawarma types. :smile: This information on this thread is great -- and pictures, too!

JJ Goode

Co-author of Serious Barbecue, which is in stores now!

www.jjgoode.com

"For those of you following along, JJ is one of these hummingbird-metabolism types. He weighs something like eleven pounds but he can eat more than me and Jason put together..." -Fat Guy

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Well, at Alfanoose, he ALWAYS has the turnips.  :wink:

Please forgive my enthusiasm; just  :wub: the food, and Mohamad, too. What a great guy, even if he only has a little thin moustache.

Well, it could very well be that Alfanoose beats them all!! So much rave, the guy has to be good!? I will try it as soon as I get the chance :biggrin:

"A chicken is just an egg's way of making another egg." Samuel Butler
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