Delle & Campbell’s Halal Luncheonette has quickly become the darling of downtown for being the first post-moratorium food cart to break the frankfurter stranglehold on street eats. Good for the two young owners who, not so modestly, boast that they’re the “vanguards of peace, love and deliciousness.” I’ll spot ’em the first two but take exception with the last category, if their shawarma is any indication of their skills.
I ordered the $7 chicken shawarma and unfurled the pita to investigate its contents. I discovered strips of white and dark meat that looked (and tasted) as if they had been marinated in a red-pepper sauce, not the more traditional cardamom-and-allspice-infused vinegar marinade (which may or may not include yogurt, too). The chicken also had some strange bedfellows inside the pita: a trio of spicy lamb sausages that looked like Jimmy Dean breakfast links.
I sat on a bench in the leafy, shaded courtyard of the Church of the Epiphany and tried to be at peace with the idea that shawarma, like crab cakes, has few hard rules about ingredients. Some shawarma-makers stick pickles in their pita, others tomatoes. Some even dump french fries in there, for crying out loud. No matter how strange I found the Delle & Campbell chicken shawarma, I figured it couldn’t be stranger than the scene unfolding in front of me in the church’s courtyard.
A homeless man was sitting a few feet from me, spitting, repeatedly and often, into the flower bed in front of us. He then got up, walked to the water hose, and did something that I couldn’t see. He returned to the wooden bench to curled up for an afternoon nap. Since I wasn’t digging my shawarma, I thought about giving him my leftovers, but somehow the idea struck me as abhorrent, like feeding scraps to a dog. But I did have a bag of potato chips that I had only picked at. Maybe it wouldn’t be as insulting to give him the rest of the bag?
As I was leaving, I walked over and asked him if he wanted my chips. With startling quickness and ferocity, he lunged for the chips and started saying, quite loudly, “Food! This will save my life! This will save my life! This will save my life!” I slunk away quietly, not sure whether he was mocking me for such a paltry offering.