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Wagyu Shawarma Grill takes trend to Rancho San Diego

New fast casual Middle Eastern counter touts its prized beef

A wagyu beef kabob served over rice
A wagyu beef kabob served over rice

The marketing cachet of Japanese-bred cattle seems to be rising. At least, I find myself writing about wagyu a lot more than I used to, as local restaurants and butcher shops embrace the notoriously marbled beef. Some take care to mention the stuff as part of internet advertised specials, particularly regarding the uber-expensive A5 cuts, rated among the world’s finest meats. More recently, the term most often translated as “Japanese cow” has found its way into restaurant names.

Place

Wagyu Shawarma Grill

2654 Jamacha Road Suite 101, El Cajon

For example, Wagyu Shawarma Grill, an otherwise low-key, Middle Eastern counter shop that recently opened in a sprawl of shopping strip on the Rancho San Diego side of El Cajon.

The idea to make wagyu into shawarma isn’t entirely new to San Diego. The South Park food truck Shawarma Guys has somewhat famously parlayed its wagyu shawarma into being named the top restaurant in the U.S.

That is, according to Yelp. Wagyu may be fantastic, but it’s not magical. Nobody truly believes Shawarma Guys the best restaurant in San Diego. What its food truck really does better than anything is offer proof of concept: wagyu fast casual. And in steps Wagyu Shawarma Grill.

Wagyu Shawarma Grill opened this spring in a Rancho San Diego shopping strip.

An important distinction with regard to both shawarma brands is that they’re obviously not using the high-end A5 rated beef that sells for like two hundred dollars a pound. Though all wagyu comes from red or black Japanese breeds of cattle, the same lineages have also been raised in Australia and the U.S. going back decades. And their product is considerably cheaper than the sake- and beer-fed Japanese imports.

A counter shop backed by rotisseries

They’re also steering away from prized cuts: ribeyes, filets, and top sirloins still command top dollar. At Wagyu Shawarma, they serve whichever parts of the wagyu support a price of 12 bucks a serving. That’s all the namesake beef will run you, whether you order it in a wrap, over rice, over fries, or served atop salad greens.

Whichever way you go, the meat will be flavorful and tender, and the word wagyu probably won't change anything but your expectations. We are talkin' about meat that’s sliced off a rotisserie here, there’s not a ton of bite to it to begin with. I actually wound up preferring the seasoning on the second wagyu option, the $9 kabob. Even though it turned out to be a ground beef kafta kabab, not the hunks of meat I’d anticipated.

A side of falafel from Wagyu Shawarma Grill

It’s not all beef on Wagyu Shawarma’s halal menu. Chicken options include shawarma, tikka, and fried preparations, served with garlic paste and tahini. And for the meat-free there’s falafel. Adding $3 makes any of them into a plate served with rice or fries, plus a side salad, flatbread, and hummus.

It’s nothing for Yelp to write home about, but there's no knockin' a well-rounded meal for a nice price, whatever your beef.

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A wagyu beef kabob served over rice
A wagyu beef kabob served over rice

The marketing cachet of Japanese-bred cattle seems to be rising. At least, I find myself writing about wagyu a lot more than I used to, as local restaurants and butcher shops embrace the notoriously marbled beef. Some take care to mention the stuff as part of internet advertised specials, particularly regarding the uber-expensive A5 cuts, rated among the world’s finest meats. More recently, the term most often translated as “Japanese cow” has found its way into restaurant names.

Place

Wagyu Shawarma Grill

2654 Jamacha Road Suite 101, El Cajon

For example, Wagyu Shawarma Grill, an otherwise low-key, Middle Eastern counter shop that recently opened in a sprawl of shopping strip on the Rancho San Diego side of El Cajon.

The idea to make wagyu into shawarma isn’t entirely new to San Diego. The South Park food truck Shawarma Guys has somewhat famously parlayed its wagyu shawarma into being named the top restaurant in the U.S.

That is, according to Yelp. Wagyu may be fantastic, but it’s not magical. Nobody truly believes Shawarma Guys the best restaurant in San Diego. What its food truck really does better than anything is offer proof of concept: wagyu fast casual. And in steps Wagyu Shawarma Grill.

Wagyu Shawarma Grill opened this spring in a Rancho San Diego shopping strip.

An important distinction with regard to both shawarma brands is that they’re obviously not using the high-end A5 rated beef that sells for like two hundred dollars a pound. Though all wagyu comes from red or black Japanese breeds of cattle, the same lineages have also been raised in Australia and the U.S. going back decades. And their product is considerably cheaper than the sake- and beer-fed Japanese imports.

A counter shop backed by rotisseries

They’re also steering away from prized cuts: ribeyes, filets, and top sirloins still command top dollar. At Wagyu Shawarma, they serve whichever parts of the wagyu support a price of 12 bucks a serving. That’s all the namesake beef will run you, whether you order it in a wrap, over rice, over fries, or served atop salad greens.

Whichever way you go, the meat will be flavorful and tender, and the word wagyu probably won't change anything but your expectations. We are talkin' about meat that’s sliced off a rotisserie here, there’s not a ton of bite to it to begin with. I actually wound up preferring the seasoning on the second wagyu option, the $9 kabob. Even though it turned out to be a ground beef kafta kabab, not the hunks of meat I’d anticipated.

A side of falafel from Wagyu Shawarma Grill

It’s not all beef on Wagyu Shawarma’s halal menu. Chicken options include shawarma, tikka, and fried preparations, served with garlic paste and tahini. And for the meat-free there’s falafel. Adding $3 makes any of them into a plate served with rice or fries, plus a side salad, flatbread, and hummus.

It’s nothing for Yelp to write home about, but there's no knockin' a well-rounded meal for a nice price, whatever your beef.

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