Walter Mencken 2:37 p.m., March 1
New kebabs on the block
Add another layer to the recent history of the building at 1290 University. In January, I wrote about how the Kebab King restaurant moved into a defunct barbecue joint and simply put signs in the windows, leaving the “BBQ” sign intact. Now, the Kebab King has shuffled out and Shawarma House has moved in. It took a little while for me to figure it out, however, because Shawarma House’s method of indicating the change was to hang a small, vinyl sign over the door and leave the rest of the architecture intact. Hasty remodelling scores another victory!
Shawarma House is visually indistinguishable from Kebab King on the surface, but the new owners did change the food up. Gone are the tortillas and the weird hot sauce that surrounded the roast and griddled meats. Instead, the more familiar pita breads ensconced my beef shawarma sandwich, along with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, what I think were pickled turnips, and a tangy dressing.
Not bad, but not great either. Better than the previous place, but still not as good as Michoz across the street, or Mama’s just around the bend. It’s tough to break into the Turkish/Lebanese kebab market with packaged pita when any number of other spots are baking their own bread to order. The Shawarma House’s sandwich fell apart in my hands in an inconvenient way. This was a fault in packaging as much as in the sandwich itself, but once it’s unwrapped there’s no going back.
I also find that menus rife with typos offend me. Even for a takeout place, I can’t fathom why anyone would skip the step of asking someone to proofread the copy. There are any number of out-of-work English majors who would do the job for $10. I’m not, like, out to shred a restaurant for misspellings on the menu, but it implies a degree of sloppiness that often correlate with the quality of the food.
Frankly, I don’t foresee a long tenure for the Shawarma House, if for no other reason than that the location might be junk. There are too few seats in too large of a building, the rent is probably stratospheric, parking is a wash during peak hours, and there’s no shortage of competition. I’m hard pressed to think what would be a good business to fill the building in question. Weirdly, I think a donut shop could stick.
1290 University Avenue