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Adams Morgan has suddenly become Shawarma Central. Walid Abuelhawa‘s Old City Café & Bakery has been a reliable source for the Middle Eastern sandwich for more than two years, but now the former Amsterdam Falafelshop chef has some competition from two new shops: The Shawarma King at 1654 Columbia Rd. NW (202-463-8330) and the Shawarma Spot in the former M’Dawg Haute Dog spot at 2418 18th St. NW. (202-332-3797).
I haven’t paid homage to the King yet, but I stopped by the Shawarma Spot for lunch today and was immediately impressed that the new owner had totally transformed the old M’Dawg space. You’d be hard-pressed to find any remnants of that short-lived dog shop. I was also impressed that just about everything is made in-house at the Spot: the carrot juice (I opted for the unsweetened version with its decidedly vegetal flavor, softened somewhat by the carrots’ natural sweetness), the baklava (beautifully flaky, crunchy pastry with a dense, satisfyingly sweet filling), the kibbeh (didn’t try it), and even the soft, white-flour pitas.
Bread, as we all know, can make or break a sandwich, and this warm, puffy pita is a magnificent partner to the rest of the ingredients in the Shawarma Spot’s signature sammie. The bread’s fresh-baked softness provides a nice contrast to the slightly chewy strips of marinated beef. Almost as important, the rounded, shell-like pitas are perfect containers for all the condiments that you can have added to your sandwich. I had the dude spoon a number of my favorite toppings into the pita, including caramelized onions, pickled beets, and hot pepper sauce. I couldn’t seem to wolf down that sandwich fast enough. The chewy meat almost disappeared underneath that avalanche of flavors, and I mean that in a good way.
Now: Onto the Shawarma King!