I have a rolling mental list of restaurants to try, some of them established and well-known, and some that are new and still waiting to be discovered. One thing I’m always on the lookout for is a good shawarma place that we can add onto our Repertoire of Regular Rotation (see what I did there?) – the places that we’ll go back to over and over again, that have the specific dishes or cuisine to satisfy whatever cravings we might have on a particular day.
I admit I didn’t grow up with shawarma in Small Town Alberta. The first time I tried it was well into my 20’s, but I can’t remember the exact location (it might’ve been in Sydney, Australia of all places). Mark, on the other hand, is a shawarma lover through and through. Growing up in Ottawa, which I’ve heard some claim as the shawarma capital of Canada, he’s had his healthy share of the good stuff, being introduced to it by his many Lebanese friends. His perennial favourite is Shawarma Palace, and I can attest to its deliciousness. I was fortunate enough to try a chicken shawarma wrap when we visited Ottawa a few years ago and I can see why Mark loves it so much. We often joke about flying to Ottawa just to have Shawarma Palace. It’s just that good.
But alas, ticket prices to fly out to Ottawa cost more than a round-trip to Paris. So what are a couple of shawarma lovers supposed to do? Why, go to Jerusalem Shawarma & Bakery, that’s what! It’s located in Harvest Hills, in one of the newer strip mall/shopping areas. Our GPS took us through an adjoining neighbourhood that we hadn’t visited before, which was a bit confusing (sometimes I wonder about GPS routes, seriously), but eventually we made it. Their bright green sign greeted us on that rainy afternoon.
It wasn’t exactly prime dining time (we went at around 2:30pm), so most of the tables were empty. A family of four sat near the window at one of the larger tables, and a lone man sat at a smaller table waiting for his takeout order. The interior is clean and minimalist, nothing too fancy but appropriate all the same.
We put in our order (falafel plate for me, chicken shawarma plate for Mark) and watched it get lovingly crafted. We both opted for the tabbouleh, garlic sauce on the potatoes, with tahini and hot sauce to finish off the plate.
Mark’s chicken shawarma plate was loaded with tons of chicken – a literal mountain of it on top of a bed of rice. He asked for some pickled turnip (one of his favourites), and the plate also comes with a nice helping of hummus. I tried some of the chicken and it was incredibly flavourful, moist, and seasoned just perfectly, probably the best I’ve had so far in Calgary. About a few minutes into our meal, I asked Mark how he was liking it. He remarked, “it’d be better if they had some potatoes”. To which I said, “there ARE potatoes, underneath your mountain of chicken and the garlic sauce.” Hah!
The falafels did not disappoint. I was pleasantly surprised to get 8 nice-sized falafels, fresh from the fryer. I gotta say, these are the best falafels I’ve ever had, and I’ve tried a lot of falafels over the years. I find most falafels to be too dry, but these were the complete opposite – moist and soft centre, with a crisp exterior. Omg yes these are fabulous! I could eat these everyday. Another standout was the tabbouleh, which was so refreshing and bright against the hot and savoury items on the plate. The garlic sauce was creamy and not overpowering, a perfect accompaniment to the potatoes. The rice and hummus helped to cool down my palate from the hot sauce (wow, they mean business with this hot sauce).
Mark almost finished his plate, but I got about 60% through. The portion sizes are more than generous. We packed up the leftovers and ended up having it later for dinner.
I can’t say definitively that Jerusalem Shawarma is the best shawarma place in Calgary, only because I haven’t tried every shawarma place yet. And don’t get me wrong – there are very good shawarma places in Calgary. But this is the closest Mark says that it’s come to his Ottawa favourite, which is saying a lot. The only thing that would push it to the same level? He prefers his chicken just shaved off the rotisserie, instead of being grilled on the flat top after being shaved (which I’m guessing can be done if asked? Or is it rude to ask? I don’t know these things).
The food and value are excellent, our service was warm and friendly, and we even got a couple of pieces of free baklava. This was a standout meal and Calgary has a true gem in Jerusalem Shawarma.
Jerusalem Shawarma & Bakery
204 30 Country Hills Landing NW
Calgary, AB T3K5P4
Phone: (403) 277-2666