Tag Archives: Calgary shawarma

Jimmy’s A&A Still an A-plus

Jimmy’s A&A still boast the best chicken shawarmas in Calgary

Usually, I’d rather crawl over broken glass than wait in line at a restaurant. My line-busting strategy includes showing up when the place opens, arriving at the end of a meal cycle (such as 2 pm for lunch) and never going for weekend brunch.

But as Covid restrictions reach their meaningful end, it’s kinda nice to see folks at 11:30 am lining up for lunch at Calgary’s beloved Jimmy’s A&A Mediterranean Deli. It’s a testament to the loyal following for the colourful Jimmy and his giant, excellent shawarmas. “It’s the bomb,” says a waiting fire fighter.

All walks of life line up at Jimmy’s

Not much has changed over the years, other than metal siding replacing the stucco of this former corner store. The long, darkened interior is still jammed full of Middle Eastern foodstuffs, more than most delis. Jimmy’s is also still primarily a takeout place, with most folks ignoring the smattering of plastic tables and chairs on the sidewalk.

Just a smattering of the deli offerings

Like most restaurants post pandemic, prices have gone up. But when my “medium” chicken shawarma tips the scales at a kilo, the $14.75 charge still offers great value, especially when this food bomb essentially feeds two. But of course, I’ve devoured the whole thing within minutes of getting back in my car.

A one-kilo “medium” shawarma

Jimmy’s remains one of the best and most colourful cheap-eats experiences in Calgary.

Jimmy’s A&A Mediterranean Deli
1401 20 Avenue NW and one other Calgary location
Monday to Saturday 10 am-10 pm, Sunday 10 am-8 pm
403-289-1400

Calgary Lunch Under $10: Beirut Street Food

Fresh-baked pitas at Beirut Street Foods

Beirut Street Food is perhaps my favourite of the many shawarma restaurants in Calgary. Its marinated chicken and beef are slow roasted over charcoal and then served inside a freshly baked, blistered, chewy pita wrap. It’s fabulous stuff, enhanced by the warm, welcoming vibe of this family-owned place in the city’s southeast.

Shawarma meats slow roasted over charcoal

The only problem, for the purposes of this cheap-eats lunch series, is the meat shawarmas slightly exceed my $10 threshold, by $1 for the regular size and by $3 for the large. One solution is to opt for a fresh falafel shawarma, starting at $9.

But I decide to pivot to something I’d never considered till I saw it on the menu. Call it Middle East meets eastern Canada. A shawarma combined with, you guessed it, poutine ($8 regular, $10 large), meaning those marinated meats are mixed with fries, gravy and cheese curds.

A pie plate full of shawarma and poutine

Sound ghastly? I kind of thought so, too, especially when my server recommended adding all the usual toppings such as marinated veggies, tahini and hot sauce.

But he was right. It was damn delicious, and I could hardly refrain from digging into this loaded pie plate to see what my fork would deliver with each bite: fries and gravy one mouthful, chicken and tahini the next.

My large size was a two-meal deal, one of the best lunch bargains in the city. This is one cross-cultural mashup I can definitely get behind.

a

A family business

Beirut Street Food
7220 Fairmount Drive SE
Monday to Thursday 11 am-4:30 pm. Friday-Saturday 11 am-7 pm. Closed Sunday
403-512-7772

House-made Pita Highlights Calgary Shawarma Spot

Beirut Street Food

At Beirut Street Food, pretty much everything is made in house, including the pita breads

There are perhaps a couple of dozen shawarma restaurants in Calgary, including the iconic Jimmy’s A&A Deli and the fast-expanding Jerusalem Shawarma. To stand out among the city’s Middle Eastern grilled-meat joints, you need something different.

The excellent Beirut Street Food, which opened in southeast Calgary in 2017, does just that. First, owner Ramzal Salem and her staff roll out and grill their pita wraps throughout the day, guaranteeing a flavourful freshness that’s miles ahead of bagged pitas. Second, unlike the standard shawarma setup—vertical spits of slowly-rotating, stacked meat slices—Beirut cooks its marinated beef and chicken over a horizontal bed of burning charcoal, providing a unique, smoky flavour.

Beirut Street Food (1)

Another unique feature: a horizontal spit over a charcoal fire

Add your choice of made-in-house veggies and sauces—hummus, garlic and a weeping hot sauce—and you’ve got a healthy-sized shawarma ($11 regular, $13 large) that ranks amongst the best in Calgary. You can pair your wrap with other fine Lebanese standards such as tabouli or fatoush salad or falafel balls, chased with a honeyed square of baklava.

Beirut Street Food (2)

Adding veggies and sauces to the shawarmas

In a crossover nod to a great Canadian tradition, you can get your shawarmas served over poutine: fries, cheese and gravy. Me, I’m going for another puffy piece of pita bread, hot off the rounded grill.

Beirut Street Food (3)

Beirut Street Foods is a bright spot in southeast Calgary

Beirut Street Food
Bay C, 7220 Fairmount Drive S.E., Calgary, Alberta
Monday to Thursday 10 am-6:30 pm, Friday-Saturday 10 am-7 pm. Closed Sunday.
403-512-7772

Swarms of Shawarma at this Calgary mini-chain

Jerusalem Shawarma 11

Assembling a massive beef shawarma wrap at Calgary’s Jerusalem Shawarma

On the menu of Calgary’s Jerusalem Shawarma are listed several family plates. Here’s a tip: Just order a one-person serving, and you might still feed a small family.

My chicken shawarma plate ($13.95) arrives with an alarming quantity of food. There’s about a pound of delectable, slow-marinated and shaved chicken served on a bed of rice. Filling out the oversized platter are wedges of garlic potatoes, healthy scoops of creamy, fresh hummus and garlic sauce and a choice of salad: Greek, Russian, corn or fatuch. After five minutes of feasting, I come up for air, scarcely putting a dent in my dinner.

Jerusalem Shawarma 13

Here’s my single chicken shawarma plate, with hummus and garlic sauce

My companion’s bountiful falafel plate is weighted down by six sizable falafel balls, deep fried to order. “The best I’ve ever had,” she says between mouthfuls.

Jerusalem Shawarma 14

Massive falafel balls, cooked to order

While waiting, we watch shawarma and donair wraps ($11-12) being assembled. Here, copious amounts of meat and toppings—including tahini, red cabbage, parsley, banana peppers and pickles—are loaded aboard a large pita, rolled and heated in a press. The resulting logs are bigger than any burrito I’ve ever seen, easily feeding two moderate appetites.

Jerusalem Shawarma 16

The takeout box is almost obligatory

Whatever you order, odds are good you’ll be asking for a leftovers box. Though I notice plenty of folks heading back to the counter, post feeding, to toss down a honey-laced piece of baklava.

Jerusalem Shawarma 17

Folks were scavenging this delectable container of baklava

Jerusalem Shawarma is a fast-casual joint, where you order at the counter and then retire to a row of booths, unless you’re getting takeout. Owned and operated by five Abufarha brothers originally from Jerusalem and using their grandfather’s recipes, their mini chain has expanded in a few years to six Calgary locations. Growing almost as fast as my belly.

Jerusalem Shawarma
Unit 111, 722 85 Street SW (and five other Calgary locations)
Daily 11 am-10 pm
403-474-8994