Cheap Eats · Mediteranean · Restaurants · Sandwiches

Jerusalem Shawarma – Macleod Trail SE location

L enjoys a donair as much as I love a banh mi. Since we were already out running errands, we decided to pick up dinner at his favourite spot in the city – Jerusalem Shawarma. For this post, let’s listen to “Tudo Bom” by Static and Ben El with J Balvin.

Jerusalem Shawarma has several locations throughout the city, but not all are equal. For example, there’s a Jerusalem Shawarma closer to our house, but the freshness and quality are not on par with our favourite location on Mcleod Trail SE.

The price and option for sizes has changed since our last visit. Before, you could choose from a regular or large shawarma. Now there is only one size. L and I both ordered a beef donair ($11.99). Look how big this donair is! Eat one of these and you’ll be full for the day.

I prefer Jerusalem’s flatbread over Ali Baba‘s wrap. The flatbread Jerusalem uses is thin and soft like a tissue. The wrap is grilled, which makes the bread crispy and chewy. The beef was tender and generously stacked. I’m glad we asked the staff to go easy on the sauces as the garlic sauce is potent stuff.

I enjoyed the sourness of the pickles and the tartness of the turnips. However, I would skip the tomatoes. The tomatoes were cut into large slices and the juices dripped down and made the end of the wrap soggy. I also noticed some of the lettuce was limp, perhaps because of our 15 minute drive back home.

Since I’m always fantasizing about all the parties I’m going to host when this pandemic is finally behind us, I noticed that Jerusalem offers catering. I’m wary of using any restaurant for catering after what happened to me years ago at an unnamed restaurant.

L’s 15 relatives came over for Christmas and at his insistence, I ordered takeout so I wouldn’t have to cook. When L went to go pick up food, they said they weren’t aware of any such order. Minutes later, I received a phone call from the owner at his second location outside the city, asking me where I was. When he realized he had the two locations mixed up as I called and placed my order at the Calgary location, he hung up on me. I called a Chinese restaurant in our neighbourhood. I’m guessing the restaurant was overwhelmed with orders as it was Christmas Day because the food was awful. I was horrified to serve our guests such a lackluster meal. Ever since that day, I’ve prepared my own food for parties.

One place I do feel confident enough to order from is Zion Soul Food. The owner and chef – Randy Agyei – is a one-man show and he does everything himself, which ensures the food is cooked properly. I placed a small catering order for L and I this weekend. I’m looking forward to trying Randy’s famous beef surya, which is prepared in a brisket style.

Cheap Eats · Mediteranean · Restaurants · Sandwiches

Ali Baba Kabob House

I wanted to give L a break from my banh mi obsession, so we stopped by Ali Baba Kabob House to pick up dinner. Ali Baba is one block away from L’s second favourite shawarma restaurant – Shawarma Knight. For this post, let’s listen to “My Type” by Saweetie.

If you look at the Google or Yelp reviews, you’ll notice that some customers who love Ali Baba like to diss Shawarma Knight. I was curious to see what the difference was between the two neighbouring businesses and the meaning behind the animosity.

I ordered a Beef Donair (Regular, $8.99) and L a Chicken Shawarma (Large, $10.99). It’s a two-person team at Ali Baba. One person shaves the meat and then sears it on a grill and the other assembles the food. I noticed the meat is sliced thinner than Shawarma Knight and cooked on the grill for a longer time. The meat is put on top of a pita, which is placed on top of a bigger piece of flatbread.

Normally I prefer beef over chicken, but when I took a bite of L’s shawarma, I was pro chicken. The chicken was so flavourful and moist, and I could really taste the seasoning and spices. L noticed the sesame flavouring in the tahini was prominent.

My beef donair was tasty, the meat was smoky and nicely spiced. The pickles were so good – they were extra sour and tart. I liked the heat from the banana peppers and turnips, and the crunch from the cabbage and cucumbers. The vegetables were all finely minced and evenly distributed throughout the wrap.

Ali Baba sprinkles on the vegetables and lightly sauces their shawarma whereas Shawarma Knight is more generous with everything – the meats, vegetables and sauces. I think Ali Baba’s seasoning is excellent, as is the execution of the slicing and searing of the meat.

Which shawarma place is better? I think each have their own style, and what you end up liking is due to your personal preference. L favours Shawarma Knight and I appreciate the non-pedestrian seasoning in Ali Baba’s chicken shawarma. Pro tip – if you are a current Shawarma Knight fan and want to try Ali Baba, note that the portions are substantially smaller at Ali Baba. So if you have a big appetite, size up.

Cheap Eats · Mediteranean · Sandwiches

Shawarma Palace – Beef Donair

One of my favourite accounts on Instagram is @loaf2go. I appreciate Loaf2go’s frank and fair reviews. One place she’s raved about is Shawarma Palace. For this post, let’s listen to “Selling the Drama” by Live.

L and I have been on the hunt for a good shawarma ever since our go-to place has slipped in quality. Shawarma Palace has four locations. We visited the Forest Lawn restaurant since it was on our way back home. I heard the Falconridge location is the best, and it is frequented by members of the Calgary Police. I know this because I saw a Superintendent Asif Rashid tweet about it on Twitter.

When we arrived, there was a line-up. There was one guy who was being a real dick. He asked for extra beef and he was confrontational when the staff told him that would be a side order. When he left, he abruptly told the customers standing next to the door to get out of his way. As he pushed his way through, he tripped over the mat. I tried hard but I couldn’t help myself and smiled. Buddy, don’t let the door hit you on your way out.

The line doesn’t move fast. With each order, the beef or chicken is cut and then seared on the grill. I didn’t mind because I could tell the food is prepared with care. Check out all that meat action! After our donair was rolled, it was lightly grilled on a press. 

We each ordered a large donair ($10.49). Loaf2go recommends ordering it with garlic sauce, tahini and a little sweet sauce. I ordered all the vegetables except for tomatoes. I noticed the staff are generous when it comes to the sauces and meats, but less so with the vegetables.

This was a very good donair. The lettuce, turnips, parsley, onions and spicy peppers were fresh and crisp. The meat itself was tender and tasted of the grill. 

The focus of the shawarma is definitely the meat. The ratio of meat to pita and vegetables was 3:1. L thought Shawarma Palace gave too much meat. Sometimes I feel like I don’t even know him anymore. 

We both would come here again. However, the parking lot is a gong show. Someone blocked us in while we backed up, and then honked their horn. The staff and food get two fat thumbs up but the drivers in the parking lot get two thumbs down.

Mediteranean · Restaurants

Aladdin’s Casbah

I attended a work dinner at Aladdin’s Casbah. The night we visited, there was a belly dancer and later in evening, a DJ. I overheard Tread Lightly request Shakira. I didn’t know he was a fan. In his honour, let’s listen to Hips don’t lie.

I tried a glass of Lebanese wine. I thought it smelled and tasted distinctly different from my usual rotation of wines – as it was more earthy with a tart finish.

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We started off with several appetizers – Oriental salad, tabouli, fatouch, cold sesame chicken, hommos, baba ghanouj, vine leaves, pickled vegetables, pita bread, and spinach and meat pies. What a spread! I thought all the appetizers were dinner. My favourite was the baba ghanouj (eggplant dip).  I could actually discern the eggplant in it, which was rich in texture and smokey in flavour.

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The salads were vibrant and tangy from lemon juice and herbs. The lettuce was crisp and refreshing. After the appetizers were cleared away, we snacked on a spinach and a meat pie.

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Each table had a hookah. There are several flavours to choose from. In between courses, we’d inhale a puff of lemon mint.

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Before our main course, we were treated to a belly dancing performance. I patiently let L watch for 15 seconds before I told him that was enough entertainment for one night. He grinned at me and nodded.

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The highlight of the meal was the skewers. Options include lamb, ground beef, beef tenderloin, chicken, quail and jumbo shrimp. Aladdin’s uses a wood charcoal grill. You can  taste the difference it makes in the meats and tomatoes. The chicken was juicy. The beef tenderloin was charred on the outside. The beef was well marbled, rendering it tender and moist.

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Our platter also contained lamb and a ground beef skewer, but I was too full to try it. Ayecaramba never got to try the lamb because Rascal ate the whole skewer.  Sharing is caring dude.

The fries were cut wide and flat. Fluffy on the inside and sumptuously crunchy on the outside. The creamy dipping sauce was pungent with mashed garlic. The rice was tangled with pickled onions and fresh dill, infused with the juices from the skewers and roasted tomatoes.

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For dessert, we sipped on coffee and munched on baklava. I’m use to baklava that tastes like a soggy, sweet mess. Aladdin’s version crackled and crumbled as I bit into it. I could actually taste the pistachios and I didn’t find the pastry too sweet.

Tread Lightly’s friend Angel told me that Aladdin’s makes the best Lebanese food in the city. I concur. L and I plan on taking L’s parents to feast on Aladdin’s Delight – a spread of eight appetizers, two types of kebobs, dessert, and coffee ($39.99 per person). Just a warning – the DJ’s music can get loud. If you prefer a quieter dinner, visit on a weekday.

Aladdin's Casbah Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cheap Eats · Mediteranean · Restaurants · Vegetarian

Beirut Street Food

L and I did our usual run to Crossroads Market. He was hungry and wanted to get a bite to eat for lunch. I suggested Beirut Street Food, as it was seven minutes away from Crossroads Market. I read on Yelp that the meats are cooked over charcoal and the pita is made fresh to order. For this post, let’s listen to Light my Fire by The Doors.

The restaurant looks brand new. The interior design is modern and sparkling clean. At the front of the store, you can see the pita bubbling up on what looks like an inverted wok. Right after the pita is cooked, it’s brought over to be immediately used in customers’ orders.

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As I walked past the pita-making station I saw two meat spits – chicken and beef. Each spit slowly turned over charcoal. I could hear the hiss and sizzle when the juices splattered over on the burning coals.

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The selection of toppings are vast. There are a variety of sauces –hummus, garlic sauce, hot sauce, tahini and a sweet sauce. I was impressed with the vegetables. The colours were vibrant and you could tell everything was fresh and cut with care. There was lettuce, pickled vegetables, turnips, banana peppers, onions, tomatoes, olives, pickles, and parsley.

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You’ll need a few napkins because the juices of sauces and vegetables soaked down to the bottom of the plastic wrapper. Our regular size chicken shawarma ($11) was large. However, L and I both didn’t feel heavy or lethargic after eating such a big meal.

The chicken was tasty – I could tell it was marinated beforehand. The freshly made pita made all the difference – it was chewy and crunchy from its time on the grill. This was a standout shawarma. I want to return try beef platter so I can try the meat without any of the sauces.

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I’d rate this shawarma the best I’ve had in Canada. I bet the shawarmas in Israel are even better. Ever since I watched Somebody Feed Phil, I’ve wanted to travel to Tel Aviv. I do have mixed feelings about that show. I like Phil, I like the restaurants that are showcased, but I feel like the Somebody Feed Phil is marketed to seniors afraid to travel outside the United States.

Beirut Street Food Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Mediteranean · Vegetarian

Jerusalem Shawarma and Bakery

I was in charge of ordering food for the volunteers helping out Jyoti Gondek’s campaign. I had heard good things about Jerusalem Shawarma and Bakery, so I gave them a try. I’m glad I did, as this place rocks out the best shawarmas I’ve ever eaten. Let’s play some appropriate music. I’ll pick Drop it Like It’s Hot because when I was playing this for Jyoti she told me I had the worst taste and I wasn’t allowed to pick the music for election night.

When I went to go pick up the food, I brought my dog with me. He didn’t have his leash on and before I could stop him, he stomped on freshly cemented pavement. Eek. I apologized to the employee and I offered to pay for it. He did it for free but mentioned sarcastically that he loves doing his work twice.

I ordered medium size chicken, beef and falafel wraps. Each were cut in half and wrapped up tightly in foil. I tried one of each. All of them were delicious.

The chicken was crispy and savoury, bursting with notes of lemon and spices. The amount of meat to vegetables were perfectly proportional.

The beef was sliced in thin slices. The beef was tender and rich in flavour as well. I loved the mix of sour, spicy, crunchy and savoury flavours from the pickles, beef, vegetables and sauces.

The falafel was crunchy on the outside. The interior was fluffy and light. The falafel tasted fresh like green like a herb garden. This one tasted the healthiest, as it wasn’t as saucy as the meat wraps.

The prices here are excellent for the quality. A medium wrap is $8.99. I wouldn’t hesitate to use Jerusalem Shawarma again for catering. Hitting the Sauce gives Jerusalem Shawarma two fat thumbs up.

Jerusalem Shawarma and Bakery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Mediteranean

Pita Basket – Catering

My office held a meeting last week. Normally my office brings doughnuts and coffee. This time around, I suggested that we order something more substantial for the attendees. The problem is that our office has such a small budget. For 11-14 people, I couldn’t go over $80.00.

Enter Pita Basket. I ordered the Pita Wrap Tray ($63.00), which came with seven large wraps cut in half. I chose three chicken, three beef and one falafel. The next time I order, I’ll likely increase the chicken and falafel over the beef, as the former were more popular with our guests.

The portion of filling was generous and filling. The tangy sauces and addition of tomatoes made the wrap a bit wet and juicy. The vegetables taste fresh and were crunchy. The thin pita was still crisp and warm, despite waiting 15 minutes to eat after it was delivered to our room.

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I couldn’t take pictures of the platter. Sure, I can get away with that behaviour at a restaurant with my friends, but I didn’t want to look unprofessional around my boss and the attendees. Plus, we were discussing ‘serious’ topics.  I did manage to discreetly sneak one shot.

Truth be told, when I visited two years before, I wasn’t impressed with my shawarma at Pita Basket (NE location). However, I’m glad I gave the chain another try. I wouldn’t hesitate to use Pita Basket in the future.

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Pita Basket Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Mediteranean

Aida’s Mediterranean Bistro

For my birthday, Jaime took me out for dinner. After our usual pilgrimage to Espy and then to the new Gravity Pope store, we strolled along Mission looking for eats. My first pick was Carino Riserva, but at 7:00pm on a Saturday, the place was packed. Every single seat was occupied. The gracious server there told me there would be seats opening in 2o minutes. However, I was hungry and wanted something to eat NOW.

Lucky for us, some customers just left Aida’s Mediterranean Bistro. I felt bad for the two servers manning the restaurant. They were running their feet off, trying to accommodate the entire room. Our server, despite the chaos, was patient as we hemmed and hawed over the wine list. She kindly let us sample her favourite white wine before we decided to ordered half a litre of it.

Jaime peppered our server with a few questions about the mezza platters. We decided on the Vegetarian Mezza ($35). This was a feast. We received endless pita and a large array of food.

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Of the three dips we tried: hummus, baba, and mouhammara, the mouhammara was my favourite. Most likely because it’s the most decadent tasting, made with red pepper paste, walnuts and pomegranate juice dip. I liked it because it was sweet and nutty and the sticky texture was delicious with pita. The baba – broiled eggplant and tahini, came in a close second.

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The fatayer – pita pastry filled with spinach was simple and easily dolled up with the side of yogurt and mint dip. The rookaak was heaven in my mouth. A cigar shaped phyllo stuffed with a piping hot blend of cheese and olives. The grape leaves were well done as well. The leaves weren’t rubbery and the filling was a tasty blend of perfectly cooked rice, tomatoes and onions. The fattoush salad was fresh and bright with lots of romaine, cucumbers, tomatoes, and a ton of radishes.

The food at Aida’s was even better than I last remembered it. The food is refreshing and plentiful, a good value in the Mission district. Thank you Jaime, for taking me out for my belated birthday dinner.

Aida's Mediterranean Bistro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Cheap Eats · Fast Food · Mediteranean

Cedars – Market Mall

I’ve been fighting the flu for the past week. L wanted me to get up and walk around a bit, so he thought he’d kill two birds with one stone by shopping and taking me along. I haven’t eaten in a food court in a long time. In my wasted youth, I was a mall rat and even back then, I’ve never been a fan of the food.

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We walked past KFC (too greasy), Subway (too generic), and finally stopped at Cedars. I really enjoyed the food at the Panorama Hills location, so I thought it would be a safe choice.

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The price is right. Around $8.00 for a regular size chicken wrap. The pita was stuffed with everything you could want: lettuce; beets; onions; parsley; tomato; radish and hot peppers. A healthy amount of chicken and garlic mayo completed the wrap.

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The value is here. I just wish it was as flavourful as the Panorama Hills location. While there were so many vegetables and pickled condiments, it lacked flavour. The pita would also have tasted better if it was grilled for a couple of minutes longer. However, for mall food, Cedars does a good job of filling you up without using a deep-fryer. Better than Subway, Cedars at Market Mall is just not as good as the original location.

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I also wanted to take this moment to thank community manager Lisa Nguyen for sending me a card and water bottle. Zomato just turned seven today and Lisa sent me a gift to celebrate with them. Yahoo. When I’m up and better, I’ll fill it up with some bubbly. Cheers to you Zomato.

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