Middle Eastern Eats
In the last five years or so the city has seen an influx of shawarma shops. The Middle Eastern fast food of choice in most parts of Europe and also it's homelands has become one of America's favorite ways to get a quick lunch or dinner. I'm always on the prowl for the perfect spit roasted sliced meat sandwich and have hit up a handful of spots in the last six months which I put together for this post. There's basically one focal point for me when it comes to excellent shawarma and thats that the meat be sliced thin and preferably cooked directly on the spit. I cant stand the places that use the gyro machines and hack away at the cone browning large chunks of meat on the flattop, whats the point in using the vertical spit. So how would these five spots stack up? Let's check them out.
Newly opened at corner of Division and Damen
According to DNAinfo this is Wicker Park's sixth Middle Eastern restaurant. According to me it already has the product of one of the better ones. I stopped in a couple weeks ago and ordered a combo plate and while I asked for a chicken kebab and also chicken shawarma, I was given beef shawarma instead. This ended up being a-ok as I usually stay away from the beef options because they're too chewy but that's not the case at Pita Cafe. Maybe it's due to the fact they cut the meat into small bits that it felt more tender than most other offerings. Whatever it is they do, it's working. I very much enjoyed this dinner which included enough food to have leftovers with later that night.
Beef Shawarma and Chicken Kebab Combo Plate______________________________________________________________
Le Pita Fresh
Students Favorite on Broadway
I was perusing the menu for this spot after driving by and the Shawarma Fries caught my eye. What they are is basically a sandwich with the fries replacing the pita. Or they could be described as Middle Eastern style nachos. I was again pleasantly surprised by the beef which was also cut into thin bits. The fries were said to be fresh cut but I wasn't detecting that. I didn't finish the entire plate but I did enjoy that which I did eat. I just wish they were around in my drinking heyday. Soak it up.
Local chain with a location on Belmont
IDOF is short for 'I Dream Of Falafel' and they now boast a handful of Chicagoland locations. I drove by during the opening week of the Belmont location and they were doing half price plates at that time. There was both some good and bad to the meal. As expected the chicken comes from a steam tray, that's not desirable. But at the same time their mission is to provide a fast, healthy lunch and they do accomplish that. Extra points for the pickles and onions. I'm not rushing to go back but would be happy to have a location near my office if it was downtown where the quick options aren't endless.
Chicken Shawarma Plate______________________________________________________________
Local chain with a location on Clark Street
I'm still not even sure how to pronounce this places name but they took over a not so lucky location in Lincoln Park over a year ago and seem to be doing well. The other two locations in the Loop are very popular lunch options as they should be. On my first trip in I had a better experience than a later visit though I'm generally a fan for a quick bite if near one of them. Pictured below is the 'Yehuda Flight' which gives you one of each of a mini falafel pita, mini chicken shawarma pita, and one mini beef shawarma pita along with a side of their fries. It's a good filling lunch and my preferred option on the menu. I tried a chicken shawarma box once and the meat was large chunks from a steamer, thus technically not shawarma. I do love their pickles and while the fries are a frozen brand they cook them to order and always come piping hot with crispy outsides. Plus they serve Merkt's.
Yehuda Flight - Mini Pita Sandwiches______________________________________________________________
Students favorite on Sheridan Road
Tucked away in a strip mall in Rogers Park this spot advertises "Superb European Style Kebabs" and surely enough one of the options is with french fries inside, common in Europe. They also have "Kebab in a Cup" but I went with the lahmacun wrap. The good? They use the machines the kebab spots thru-out Spain use (there's one on every block in Barca) and this results in well browned, thinly sliced meat. Also a plus is the option for "Mixta" which is both pork and chicken. The shaved bits have some actual seasoning going on. The bad? Way to big. In Europe this is supposed to be cheap fast food but due to the portion size this isn't a cheap snack. Over $8 and I only ate half. I could see how the local college kids like this place but they don't stay open past 10p. Bullshat. End result? I'd go back if nearby and the wraps were half the size and with that half the price, though I'd get the fries on the side. Too much starch for a sober man to handle.
Mixta Lahmacun wrap______________________________________________________________
2014 W Division
Chicago, IL 60622
Le Pita Fresh
6141 N Broadway
Chicago, IL 60660
851 W Belmont Ave
Chicago, IL 60657
2485 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60614
6808 N Sheridan Rd
Chicago, IL 60626