Shawarma isn’t just a delicious pile of rotating meat – for a lot of Calgarians, it’s also a reminder of home. The smell of herbs and spices carried through the warm air, the familiarity of faint Arabic music on repeat in the background, the extraordinary hospitality of the shop owners – these are just some of the things you can expect when walking into your local shawarma eatery.
While the exact origin of shawarma is unclear, it’s been a prominent part of Levantine street food for centuries. Not to be confused with shish tawok or donair, shawarma can be any kind of meat or poultry. If it can be marinated and stacked onto a spit, the sky is the limit (our apologies if you’re now picturing a sky full of amazing food).
So, if you’re ever in the mood for this taste of the Middle East, check out these six Calgary shawarma spots that have gotten it right.
One of the things that pulls a good shawarma together is the sauce – specifically, the sweet sauce. It needs to have the perfect balance of sugar, garlic, and texture. A good sweet sauce is silky and melts in with the juices and oils running off of the shawarma to create the perfect combo of sweet and salty. Eat-A-Pita has, arguably, one of the best sweet sauces in the city. Located along 17 Ave S.E., Eat-A-Pita is one of the most authentic shawarma spots you can find in the city.
And if you’re in the mood for something sweet, it has a case full of Middle Eastern sweets, giant cookies, and pretty much everything else to satisfy your sweet tooth.
4602 17 Ave. SE, 403-273-3113, eat-a-pita.com
Walking into one of Jerusalem Shawarma’s six locations is like taking a step into a restaurant in Palestine. The original Jerusalem Shawarma was actually started in a Palestinian village, and was built with a passion for food and a lot of generosity. That same passion and generosity has been passed down through the generations and onto the Calgary locations.
One of the hallmarks of a good shawarma is when’s it’s overflowing with fillings. Jerusalem Shawarma definitely has this part down, so make sure you’re really hungry if you’re planning on hitting up one of their locations.
Various locations, jerusalemshawarma.ca
Jimmy’s A&A Deli
Jimmy’s is a Calgary staple when it comes to Mediterranean food. It started off as a family-owned corner shop back in the 1990s, and while it’s expanded to include a second restaurant location downtown, the original location on 20 Ave. N.W. still has elements of its beginnings. Stocked with a variety of imported goods ranging from shisha pipes to tea, Jimmy’s also has an assortment of other foods like samosas, stuffed grape leaves and kubbi balls in its deli case.
If you’re at the original location, be sure to head upstairs for a quiet place alone with your shawarma (you’ll need it, things can get messy). One of the many charms of Jimmy’s is feeling like you’re right at home.
Various locations, jimmysdonair.ca
King of Shawarma
Hidden along 13 St. S.W., this spot can be easy to miss, but it should never be overlooked. King of Shawarma lives up to its name by piling platters high with toppings, sauces, rice and hummus. If you’re in the mood for something a little different, try their “LambB” shawarma, which is a mix of lamb and beef.
King of Shawarma is open until 2:30 a.m. Sunday through Wednesday and until 4:30 a.m. Thursday through Saturday. They also deliver through Skip the Dishes and Uber Eats. If it’s late and you want to minimize effort and human interaction, this is the shawarma for you. If you do end up eating in, check out the photo wall. You’ll be surprised who’s pictures you discover up there.
1132 13 St. S.W., 403-453-6745, kingofshawarma.com
This list would be incomplete if we didn’t include Pita Basket. Chef Ro put it on the map with his presentation game. Pita Basket’s promotional videos have been viewed more than 50,000 times on Instagram.
If you order a wrap, it’s served to you on a wooden board, decorated with tomatoes and garlic sauce, with a flare that only Chef Ro (who you can usually find at Pita Basket’s Airdrie location) can achieve. Order their cheesy chicken fries for a delicious twist on a classic.
Various locations, 587-254-0880, @chef_ro_yyc
It doesn’t matter what time it is, you can expect to find Shawarma Palace bustling. And, with locations in most quadrants of the city, Shawarma Palace is the comfort food that we all need. Perfectly crispy and juicy at the same time, this shawarma is the answer to all of life’s questions.
Try its mixed platter (full of chicken, beef, and lamb) with potatoes, hummus, and garlic sauce for a taste of all of the shawarma it has to offer.
Various locations, shawarma-palace.com