As a proud Canadian and self-proclaimed foodie, I marvel at the cultural diversity of the cuisine found across Ottawa. Being an avid cook and culinarian, I’ve done my best to stretch my time and budget in order to try as many different restaurants from assorted cultures as possible.
In the sea of gastronomic options, one rises above the rest when it comes to eateries per square mile. Shawarma shops can be found on practically every street in the city, and each is unique in its way of sandwich preparation.
Some are definitely more authentic than others in terms of ingredients and technique. These places, Castle Shawarma on Rideau for example, attract loyal regulars that will proclaim it as “the best in the city” and refuse to eat shawarma anywhere else! This probably has something to do with the large Lebanese community based in Ottawa. If anyone would know authentic Lebanese food, it’s someone with linked cultural roots!
Many ingredients go into a proper shawarma, but three in particular need to be prepared perfectly if the sandwich is going to be spot on.
Pita bread is the first thing you bite into when eating a shawarma. It’s what holds everything together; it’s what keeps your sandwich safe. Respect the pita -- and respect its textural purpose. A good pita should be just thick enough to retain all of the shawarma’s saucy gloriousness. It should have a pleasant chew, taste fresh and, most importantly, have a crisp exterior. All of these elements together are what make shawarma so deliciously portable.
Best Pita: Shawarma Palace on Carling. Fresh and crispy.
Shawarma usually comes with two meat options, beef being one of them. But any pro knows that chicken shawarma is king, and if it’s going to be fit for a king, that chicken better be juicy and well-seasoned. Every restaurant has its own blend of spices, usually stemming from an old family recipe. Moist chicken with a tasty, spicy bark from the rotisserie is essential.
Best Chicken: Shawarma Heaven in Barrhaven. Juicy and flavourful.
Finally, the crowning achievement of great shawarma joints everywhere: garlic sauce. It should be thick, creamy, well-seasoned and packed full of garlic. This is what makes shawarma craving-worthy.
Best Sauce: Castle Shawarma on Rideau. Comes in three varieties: regular, spicy and oregano.
Chef, writer, musician and wild child, an avid adventurer in the world of gastronomy. Alex has a passion for food, and expresses that passion through cooking, writing and teaching. His body is a temple, built on brioche, burgers and bourbon. He refuses to serve a steak well done.