by Ben Miller
D.C. is in sore need of good and inexpensive places where you can grab a fast dinner for less than $10 and not have to sit down. Places like Pollo Sabroso in Mount Pleasant, where you can get a delicious 1/2 chicken and fried plantains for about $8.
Shawarma King, a recently opened shawarma and falafel place on Columbia Rd. between Mozart and Quarry has the potential to be one of those places–though it needs a little work first. (Note: this is not the similarly named Shawarma Spot, which is on 18th in Adams Morgan.)
For starters, I like the look of the place. It’s clean, brightly lit. The menu is sparse, but easy to follow. You can select from chicken or beef shawarma or falafel, which can then come in a pita pocket or on a piece of flatbread.
Here was my first issue. The flatbread and pita both appear to just be grocery-store bought. Now I don’t expect homemade breads for $5.95, but just sitting there in the bags did leave them feeling less than fresh.
Once you choose your meat (or falafael) you then take your dish over to the toppings bar. I was pretty pleased with the offerings here, which ranged from traditional things like tahini, hummus, red onion mixed with spices, an Israeli-looking salad, to the slightly different: fried cauliflower, pickled jalapenos, and beets.
While I was really pleased with the offerings, it would have benefited from having a thick and creamy cucumber sauce. Tahini is simply not thick enough to properly coat the meat/falafal, and the hummus is too dry to make the dish seem moister.
After selecting toppings, you hand your shawarma/falafel back, where they then wrap it up and heat it up in what appears to be a panini press.
Overall, I’d say I was pretty pleased what I had, especially for $6.25 after tax. The serving was plentiful–I felt full without having to order french fries. I also really liked the hot sauce, which made my chicken shawarma nice and spicy.
But that being said, my main complaint was that the dish was just too dry. The chicken had not been recently shaved (likely a function of when we came in since people after us got fresher cuts), and the grocery store flatbread was also dry.
Luckily, I think this problem could be pretty easily solved with the addition of cucumber sauce to the toppings bar. That kind of creamy option would help keep the whole sandwich moist, while also adding additional flavor.
What do you think commenters? Have any of you been to Shwarama King?