Eat ’em all

Cook Mike Mayhall prepares a lamb shawarma while metal blasts in the Shawarmageddon kitchen.

Cook Mike Mayhall prepares a lamb shawarma while metal blasts in the Shawarmageddon kitchen.

Photo/Allison Young

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Most people see a stairwell as merely a conveyance between floors. Others see that stairwell as an opportunity to open a very tiny restaurant with attitude to spare. If you like Mediterranean-style food served up with heavy metal music, Shawarmageddon has what you’re looking for.

“Eat & Destroy” is the motto featured on all the signage, no doubt an allusion to the Metallica classic “Seek & Destroy.” The owner and his crew are metalheads, hence the all-black decor and portmanteau of shawarma and Armageddon. The logo features an inverted pentagram with a lamb’s head in the center. There’s even a lighting fixture with this imagery framed in barbed wire. Brutal.

Located in the stairwell that once led to a well-known vegetarian cafe, the former restaurant space upstairs is apparently being used for auxiliary purposes. The current operators turned an adjacent ground-floor room into a small kitchen, cut a hole through the wall to serve as order window, and installed a couple of counters to sit at with nine stools available. Unless you’d heard of it via word-of-mouth or social media, you’d never know it’s there.

The menu is short and sweet, featuring shawarma wraps with a choice of lamb, chicken or a fried filling of mashed vegetables ($8). Unlike some shops serving gyro or shawarma purchased pre-cooked and formed to be warmed on a spit, the meats here are marinated and roasted in-house. Even the lafah (flatbread) is made on-site, thinner than a pita but also a little more oily from being finished in a frying pan. The flavor of the bread adds quite a bit to the experience, and when it’s fresh from the kitchen it’s got a nice crispy texture.

The wraps are stuffed with romaine lettuce, tomato, onion, mint, cucumber, chili oil, a vinaigrette containing ras el hanout (a North African spice blend), and seasoned labneh sauce (a very soft kefir cheese similar to yogurt). The flavor combination in the lamb shawarma came together very well, far more complementary than I’d have expected with that list of ingredients. No single flavor dominated and the lamb was tender and tasty. The chicken version was a bit dry, but the flavors were still pretty solid. Less successful for us was the mashed and fried veggie wrap—although I’m told the vegans like it. All three options are also available as a salad sans bread for those skipping carbs.

The daily special on our visit was so good I think they should make it a regular feature ($10). Bite-sized pieces of chicken slathered in a thick, housemade sauce—akin to the Appalachian-style known as “hot chicken”—were served with very thin and crispy shoestring potatoes and fresh cucumber pickle. A bit of labneh was drizzled on top to temper the heat, and the chef said he’s thinking of calling the dish “Poultrygeist.” The sauce was definitely hot, but it had a lot of other flavors competing for attention in a delicious way. The dish as a whole was one of the best things I’ve eaten this year.

Fried and spiced chickpeas are the only other food item on the regular menu ($3), which make for either an interesting side dish or snack. They had a crispy exterior and puffy interior, and though the bag looked small at first there was plenty to share with friends. If you like falafel, you’ll probably love these.

Spiced teas with names like “Crimson Death” and “Swamp Thing” are available for $3, but we stuck with water in order to fully appreciate the food. Craft beer will be available soon, which I find somewhat ironic given the cultural origins of the cuisine. You don’t have to sell your soul to nosh and mosh, but the lamb shawarma might be worth it.