A chicken shawarma plate, served with house sauces and hummus
  • A chicken shawarma plate, served with house sauces and hummus
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Perhaps it’s owing to the small size of Doner Mediterranean Grill, or to its Gaslamp location. Maybe it only has to do with the doner shop’s generic name. For whatever reasons, I’ve always ignored the place, and definitely did not expect the cafeteria-style fast casual spot to be the type of restaurant that makes things from scratch.

Doner Mediterranean Grill

823 Fifth Ave, Downtown San Diego

But there it is, written on the wall: “try our new homemade sauces.” Hot sauce, made with roasted red peppers, tomatoes, and herbs. Garlic paste, made with egg whites and jalapeños. Even the hummus, made from organic chickpeas, pureed with olive oil, garlic, and lime.

Tahini, hot sauce, and garlic paste, made from scratch

Tahini, hot sauce, and garlic paste, made from scratch

Just knowing that, the trio of rotisseries slowly turning behind the counter become a lot more interesting. Chicken shawarma, beef, and the standard lamb/beef gyro blend. They offer falafel (house made, of course), kofta (a patty of ground beef and lamb, deep fried), and chicken cream chop (fried chicken cutlet, chopped and smothered in tahini).

A pita sandwich loaded with rotisserie beef

A pita sandwich loaded with rotisserie beef

Any of these are served in a soft pita for $8-10, wrapped in a large flatbread for $10-12, or on a plate with rice, hummus, tabouli, and pita for $12-14.

The flat bread for those wraps is like a large tortilla, even a little stretchy like one, so when I order a falafel wrap, what I wind up with is a lot like a falafel burrito. Which is sort of a dream come true when you’re wandering the Gaslamp, hungry, but with only ten bucks to spend.

A simple doner shop in the Gaslamp

A simple doner shop in the Gaslamp

The beef might be more so for $12, but spend that ten on a $10 beef pita, and you might get all you need. The pita sandwich overflows with beef shaved off the rotisserie, with a few courtesy vegetables and swimming in tzatziki and hot sauce.

The clean ,fast casual dining room of Doner Mediterranean Grill

The clean ,fast casual dining room of Doner Mediterranean Grill

My favorite combination of healthy and tasty goes to the chicken shawarma, served as a plate (unfortunately, a plastic container). I dig the seasoned chicken, especially dressed with sides of the house tahini and hot sauce, and likewise that hummus is a joy. The key here is being ready and willing to ask for more sauce.

This isn’t knock your socks of Mediterranean food, but it’s surprisingly good for a narrow specialty shop in a neighborhood loaded with overpriced mediocrity. For sure, I’ll stop ignoring Doner Mediterranean Grill.

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