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Shawarma King
1654 Columbia Road NW, Washington, DC 20009

(202) 462-8330

I ate my first shawarma-type sandwich in Baku, Azerbaijan, where street vendors call the shaved-lamb-and-pita combo a döner-kebab and top it with cilantro, tomato, cucumber, a ketchup-like red sauce, and fresh herbs. Baku doesn’t have much else in the way of fast food (the city’s three McDonald’s franchises charge more for a combo meal than its nicest restaurants charge for sturgeon steaks and caviar), so perhaps I found the döner-kebab tasty only because there was no place else to grab a quick bite between classes. For a similar quick bite in Adams Morgan, I turned to a chicken shawarma from the Shawarma King. A friendly cook topped it with pickles, cucumbers, tomatoes, and some Tzatziki per my request, but the sandwich failed to help me recall my earlier experience. While seasoned well, the chicken was a tad mealy—a side effect, perhaps, of chicken not being as fatty as beef and prone to drying out. Overall, it was a boring meal. Perhaps my choice of toppings was partially at fault, but, frankly, this trend of encouraging customers to load their sandwiches willy-nilly is a terrible idea. As I learned from watching the street vendors in Baku, there’s an optimal way to prepare most dishes—from hamburgers to pizza to Caesar salad to shawarma. The topping bar may have contained a chicken-redeeming trifecta of fresh veggies, sauces, and preserves, but that’s not what ended up on my sandwich. A list of go-to topping combinations or a knowledgeable line cook could have turned my sad sandwich around, but that’s not what happens at Shawarma King.