Chow Down In Milwaukee

Restaurant Reviews

Shawarma House

After a long day of car repairs, working out and grocery shopping I decided to try a restaurant that I had my eye on for a while, Shawarma House. They have three locations in Milwaukee, Brookfield and the location I tried in Greenfield. The location I visited used to be the home of the Route 76 diner. I am a fan of such establishments but recall this one seemed never to have quite finished their internal construction. Imagine my delightful surprise when I opened the door to discover a very clean, modern and completely put together restaurant. The floor looked to be Pergo in a wood design and was recently washed. The walls were a simple grey with a pleasant mirrored brick accent. The tables and furniture were simple, clean and decidedly modern. Every possible surface also seemed to be clean and shine.

The menu was brightly lit behind the counter and they also had take out menus that you could take to your table to review a little easier. Margie and I chose the latter option. Although I am part Armenian, I must confess to not being as well-versed with middle eastern cuisine as I should be. This made this trip both exciting and a learning experience. The menu helped a great deal with this as each item featured a list of ingredients and some even had a brief description of how they were prepared. With a little help from Google we had a head full of knowledge of the items on the menu to choose from.

The day on which we visited happened to be Eid al-Fitr or the “Festival of Breaking the Fast”. I am not Muslim but decided enjoying a rather lavish meal in this establishment seemed rather fitting. To that end and coinciding with my desire to experience as much of a culinary culture as I can, I decided to order as many items as I could without appearing gluttonous. It was fortunate for me, in addition to having the company of the beautiful Margie, Shawarma House has a weekday lunch special from 11am – 2pm that allows you to try a little of many things they offer. There are two possible combination plates you can choose from. Margie chose one and I chose the other. Along with a few additional sides we purchased we had quite a large selection.

Margie chose the Shawarma Plate. This included both beef and chicken Shawarma. If you find yourself asking what exactly Shawarma is you are not alone. It would seem the proprietors of this establishment knew that question would come up. There are two signs on the wall. One explains Shawarma as a “Levantine type of meat that comes from different sources, such as beef, chicken, lamb and fish, among others. It is prepared by thinly slicing the meat, then marinating and layering it on a vertical spit slice by slice. The meat is then grilled slowly throughout the day and shaved off for serving.” Didn’t I tell you that this place has a lot of great descriptions for their food? Both the meat and the chicken where shaved in small pieces resembling something you would expect in a stir fry. They were not only tender but had a great flavor that was not too spicy.

I ordered the Grill Plate. It was served with Beef Kefta Kabab. This was described as ground and seasoned beef, skewered and grilled, served in bread with onions, Arabic pickles, tomatoes, and our tahini sauce. I also had Chicken Koobidah which was the same as the afore mentioned beef Kefta Kabab except it was obviously chicken and came with a homemade garlic sauce. Both offerings came in a 1” by 6” piece. Both were tender and tasty. Lastly, my plate included their Spicy Chicken. This was described as cubes of chicken thigh seasoned with Middle Eastern spices and grilled with Arabic pickles, tomatoes, and tahini sauce. This was delicious! The spice was evident, but not overwhelming. The size of the chicken was good for one or two bites per cube and you got two cubes. I would order this as a dish next time I visit here.

Both plates were served with Basmati rice. The rice was moist and made a perfect bed for the meats we were served. We also received a Jerusalem Salad. This was described as freshly diced cucumbers, tomatoes, green cabbage, and parsley with a homemade vinaigrette dressing. It was a fresh and bright flavored side-salad that was a perfect compliment to the other items on the plate.

You also had your choice of Hummus or Baba Ghannouj (also known as Baba ghanoush) which is a Levantine appetizer of mashed cooked eggplant mixed with tahini, olive oil and various seasonings. This is what I chose, and I was not disappointed. There was a slight smoky flavor from the paprika sprinkled on top. There was a delicious spice, not spicy, just tasty. Margie chose the Hummus. In case you are not aware how hummus is made, a brief description is cooked mashed chickpeas or other beans blended with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic. This also had a great flavor and texture.

In addition to these plates we ordered a few other sides. Dwali which are grape leaves stuffed with seasoned rice and steamed. They came with slices of lemon. I am a big fan of stuffed grape leaves and have tried many different versions both hot and cold. These had a texture that did not fall apart when you picked them up. With a splash of the lemon juice they were quite delightful.

I ordered a side of Tabbouleh. This is also a dish that I have plenty of experience with. Here they describe it as freshly diced tomatoes, onions, parsley, green peppers, and cracked wheat with a magic touch of olive oil and lemon juice. This is a very refreshing and healthy side I enjoy as often as I can. My one issue I had with their version is that it did not include mint, which I enjoy. This is a personal preference and would not be missed if this was your first-time trying tabbouleh.

Lastly, we ordered Shrak Bread. Remember the two descriptive signs I mentioned earlier? The one that described what Shawarma was? The other described Shrak bread. Shrak is a traditional flatbread commonly eaten in different parts of the Middle East. It is thin and smooth in texture, making it great for Shawarma and falafel sandwiches. It is made with a combination of white and wheat flour and baked on a dome-shaped metal griddle. That was their description. I am here to tell you that it is a thin, but formidable bread. It does a great job of keeping both the meat and juices inside the sandwich but may be a bit more of a challenge keeping your teeth inside your mouth. If you are ready for it, I recommend trying it. I found the flavor to be hearty and the texture to be the same if not a bit intimidating.

I had two regrets upon leaving the Shawarma House. The first is that I took the fountain drink that came with the combination plate I ordered. I would have much rather tried something a bit more ethnic to go along with the amazing food I had. My second is that I did not leave room for dessert. There were plenty of delicious pastries that I will look forward to trying on my next visit.

When I left the Shawarma House, I was full but did not feel the heavy bloated feeling some restaurants can give you. I also left enjoying everything I tried. It is not often one can say that. From the modern interior which included inspirational sayings on the restroom walls, to the fabulous cuisine, Shawarma House is on my list of places to return to.


Written By: Neil Panosian

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