13 Feb 2012

First Bite: ShawaFel

Guest post by Jay Williams

Sometimes you have a day where, by the time you get home from work, you’re done — no energy to cook, but you don’t really feel like going out.  These are the nights you want to sit on the couch with some bad TV (my wife’s current favorite is Dance Moms), decompress, and enjoy some delicious food that took little effort on your part.  Thankfully, the H Street corridor has many carryout joints to meet this demand.  One of those newer options is ShawaFel, a shop focusing on quick, delicious Lebanese food.  Located across the street from the Atlas Performing Arts Center, ShawaFel is open from 11:30am to 9:00pm Sunday through Thursday, and 11:30am to 3:00am Friday and Saturday.

…And it’s fantastic.  My go-to dish has become the Shawarma Platter.  For $13, you get a lot of chicken and meat (lamb and beef) shawarma, along with generous helpings of tabouleh and hommus, pickles, and garlic toum.  It comes with a large piece of pita bread, which is great for making your own sandwich or dipping in the delicious hommus.  The platters have enough food for dinner and then leftovers for lunch the next day, so it’s a good deal.  The sandwiches are also very good.  The fries are kind of soggy but are seasoned very well, so the flavor makes up for the lack of crispiness.

The meat has a lot of flavor –- according to their website, the meat is cooked with a secret family sauce — and is carved on demand from vertical spits.  Most food is prepared when it is ordered, so you don’t have to sacrifice freshness for speed.  I have never waited more than a minute or two for a call-ahead order.  I also like being able to see the food being cooked and prepared right in front of me rather than behind a closed door.  This shows a high level of pride and confidence in the food that is absolutely justified.

I’m not a big salad guy (but I am kind of big — there might be a correlation here), but the Fatoush Salad is a great complement to a meal, or just fine as a stand-alone dish.  It’s a crisp, kind of tangy salad with pomegranate dressing that adds a nice little zing.

Aside from the non-crispy fries, I really only have one complaint about the food.  After a slightly disappointing experience with some grape leaves that weren’t very fresh (read: soggy), I have avoided the food that isn’t freshly prepared (which may mean I’m missing out on some delicious baklava — please let me know if this is the case).

Those (minor) negatives aside, I highly recommend ShawaFel.  It has become one of my family’s favorite go-to places on those nights when we just don’t feel like cooking.  Sadly, all that delicious food still can’t save me from being forced to watch Dance Moms.

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