Shawarma Station Review

Shawarma Station is an ‘ok’ stop.  Located in Kensington, kitty corner to the Greek restaurant, Broken Plate, it has the usual falafels, donairs, shawarmas, tabouli, and hummus.  Sam the owner cheerfully (perhaps even zealously) greeted us when we walked in.  It’s a clean, small shop with a few tables and modest decor.  He had a food review from Avenue magazine standing on his counter.

I initially ordered a BEEF SHAWARMA ($8) while my friend ordered a falafel version($6.50).  Sam started out asking if I wanted spicy hummus, regular hummus, or cheese.   (I thought it was odd to see white cheese slices in a Lebanese – style place, but to each their own market, I guess.)   For toppings, I choose crisp lettuce, fresh tomatoes, pickled cabbage, sliced onions, sweet pickles, and hot peppers.  He grabbed a tiny bit of each and layered it on my pita.  (Personally, I was hoping for a bit more of everything.)  When it came to the meat, he suggested that I try a mix of chicken and beef rather than simply the beef.  Alright, I thought, not realizing that he was now charging me $9.70 for a different menu item, the MIX.  Finally, he asked if I wanted some tabouli for my shawarma, again an extra cost.  In the end, after all additions, I paid $13.50 for my skinny shawarma. I was hoping the taste would compensate for the pricey meal.

At first bite, it was surprisingly sweet tasting.   The pita was heated to a point where it was more chewy than soft.  Too much work for me to fight with the tough bread so I peeled the extra parts off to get to the filling.  The meat was mild; The chicken was a little dry, and the beef had a slight kick to it.  It was an average shawarma, warm and good but pricey.

My friend was disappointed with her falafel though.  He only gave her one ball, crumbled it, and spread it  in her pita.  She commented that some other places use 2 -3 balls.  She thought her meal had a strange taste to it too.  Difficult for her to describe.   Not a ‘so-bad-I-want-to-gag’ taste but rather a different flavor than other falafels she’s tasted before.  She didn’t love it nor hate the flavor.

Sam did mention earlier that, next time, we should order the “SAM”, which includes everything from each meats, hummus, eggplant and more.  Interesting idea to have eggplant in a pita.  Maybe I’ll pop by.  I’m not dying to return.  Just another station for a quick bite to eat on my way to and from somewhere.

(If you are dying for a good shawarma around the Kensington area, my suggestion is to walk a few more blocks west to Shawarma King, a block off 14st.   If you are lucky and they’re in the right season, try the pickled turnip.  YUM!  Decent price!  Large shawarma!  Great taste!)
Shawarma Station on Urbanspoon


13 responses to “Shawarma Station Review

  1. I agree totally on Schawarma King, and if you’re really hungry, get the platter – about 9.50(?) gets you a whole take out deal with rice, potatoes, salad, turnips, sliced meat and garlic sauce, hummus and pita. It’s the absolute best thing late at night on a weekend. AND they’re open till 4am, making it one of like three spots, open late in Calgary.

    • True about the late-night dining. Calgary seems to be lagging behind other cities in this dept.

      One good place for Japanese food including sushi and noodles is Shibuya. It’s open very late.

  2. There are tons of places open late in Calgary- Tatiana, I can name four places open until the wee hours just a short walk from my house: Sammy’s, Shawarma Knight, Ali Baba, and Tubbydog. Go to Chinatown and there are many places open very late. We’re no worse than many cities and better than many.

    RuneRider- I’ve been to Shawarma Station (not “Shwarma” and not “Schwarma”) many, many times and have found decent value but more importantly gracious-to-the-point-of-embarrassing service from owner Sam. BUT to get the good you might consider some tips:

    1. Never, ever get lettuce on a shawarma. No matter if it’s offered; it has no business there and it ruins all it touches. In Lebanon a shawarma might come with onions and pickles, maybe tomatoes, and that’s it.
    2. DO get the cheese- it’s more of a melting concoction like the “cheese” on banh mi and adds delicious richness.
    3. GET THE SHISH TAWOUK! By far the best sandwich at the station! And get it with “everything” as Sam preps it. It is amazing, a rich astonishing melange of flavours, and you won’t feel ripped off.

    I completely agree about the falafel- after much prodding I tried Sam’s veg sandwich and one crumbly old felafel. Terrible. But the shish is so amazing and Sam does make it with love.

    • John, it is true that there are late night places in town but not as many as there could be.

      I’ll be sure to have some fun with Nancy about her spelling (she’s a teacher and I suffer under her scrutiny often) I never proofed her review but will check them from now on. 🙂

      As to the review itself, I know Nancy to be a die hard shawarma lover and if Sam had a bad day than it’s too bad she ate there at that time. I’ll have to see for myself at some point and add to the review then. I will say that the huge amounts of good tasting meats offered by some stores for a similar price and often including for the one price the things Nancy had to pay extra for are very good value in my view. Again, if the pita was old or a bad batch and the meat a bit dry that day it’s unfortunate but we review what we were served at the time.

      Despite all our travels we’ve never been to the mid-East (ok, I was in Cairo for two hours) and look forward to trying the real thing someday.

      Your description of the Shish Tawouk is making hungry maybe I’ll go sooner than later.

      P.S. if you notice any spelling errors in my reviews just ignore them, 🙂

    • Hello Dr.Manzo
      i didn’t know you came to my restaurant(shawarma knight)..i took soci 201 with you winter 2009. of course you wouldn’t know me since there were over 400 students in your lecture.
      but it’s nice to know my prof eats at my restaurant.
      thank you

  3. And therein lies the problem – all those places John named may be within a short walk of his house, but is nowhere near mine. In fact anything out of the core is likely closed at nine (kitchen-wise) or mediocre (pizza).

    And Tubbdog does not exactly count either – pizza and hotdogs can be made at home. Hardly worth leaving the house for. That leaves us with Chinese (Silver Dragon esp), Shawarma King, Sammy’s, Ali-Baba. That’s not a plethora of choices for a city with a million people.

    Having said that, I will definitely try the shish tawouk on your recommendation 🙂


  4. Thanks for correcting my spelling. I fought with the ‘shawarma’ word for the entire review so I just tried every version! LOL.

    What is in a shish tawouk? (I hope it’s not with eggplant. I don’t like eggplant.) If it sounds good, I’ll pop by a second time to try.

    I agree that Sam is a very personable, outgoing guy. The way he greeted us when we first walked in was surreal.

    Really … with cheese? Hmm. I don’t think I’ve ever seen other places offer cheese but if you think so.

    Have you been to Lebanon? Are you middle eastern? Are shawarmas ‘real’ Lebanese food or just for tourists? (e.g., Chicken balls are NOT real chinese.) I always wondered where in Calgary can one find authentic, good Lebanese.

  5. Nope, not been to the middle east but know oodles who have- and yes, shawarma (arabic for “sandwich”) is completely authentic, with regional differences of course… I should add that there is no one correct spelling for the word, but Shawarma Station spells it as one usually sees in North America. The word is however transliterated from Arabic, so it’s okay to spell it phonetically any which way- Sammy’s spells is “shawarme.”

    Anyway my sense is that Calgary Lebanese is as authentic as anywhere in North America- if you want more high-end, I’d recommend both Aida’s and Sahara, two very different-looking but very nice restos!

  6. I must say i just adore Lebanese food, so a friend of mine sugested that i try a place called Shawarma station. So i dragged my husband or as i call him mr.steak and potatoes! along with my children.
    i think i took two steps in the establishment when i was greeted by a man saying “hello my friends welcome to shawarma Station” and beside him a petit girl with a warm smile. I later found out that was his wife.
    As i am vegetarian he sugested the Sams special sandwhich. it came with a variety that was just amazing. Tabouleh eggplant falafel and so on. my husband decied to get the MIX. chicken and beef. and my children being only 4 and 6 decided to share a chicken.
    well let me tell you. I don’t think i have ever had a shawarma so authentic and delicous. i lived in lebanon teaching english for a few years and this is as close to the real thing as i have ever tasted to beirut. even my husband who is not one for ethnic food as i am, loved it!!!
    At the end of our meal sam came and checked on us to see if we liked it and behind him came his wife with chocolates for the kids.
    the service and warmth of that place is comparable to none. The price of the food was worth it. you are not just paying for the food it is the service as well.
    my family now go once a week and can proudly say we are “regulars”

    • Stephanie, thanks for the comment. I’m glad you had good experiences at Shawarma Station and I agree that sometimes factors other than the food can matter in one’s assessment of a store. But like any other factor it is subjective and the experience Nancy had was not to her liking on that day.

      Like yourself we do a great deal of traveling and enjoy getting the same version of food near home if we like something, however in the case of a shawarma I’ll use the hamburger analogy. If you travel from Asia to North America and love one burger very much and then find something similar back home, you really cannot proclaim it to be more authentic than another because there are thousands of different versions in the country of origin. Some foods don’t have this problem to the same extent, their flavors are from very basic and always used ingredients that don’t rely on spice mixtures or sauces as much. I’d say any shawarma with same basic ingredients is authentic, which covers nearly all in the city that I’ve tried.

      Sam does a good business and has many loyal patrons, I hope he continues to do well and will try his offerings at some point myself someday, we don’t write reviews to do damage to anyone’s favorite place we merely state our experiences and impressions for the time we visit. Sometimes the places considered the best for what they offer have been awful on the day we visited and that’s unfortunate.

  7. I was walking along Kensington area and thought I’d drop by the Swarma Station for a quick bite and chosed Mixed Shwarma on the menu for $9.75 and as I got to the till, the lady charged me $13.75. My jaws literally dropped as I questioned how $9.75 jumped to $13.75. So this explained – $2.00 for a SLICE of Cheese, $1.00 for HUMMUS sauce, $1.00 for toubouli!!!! WOW. Could you believe this? So I told them I don’t want the cheese no more and they charged me $12.25 instead. AMAZING. I was thinking, if you minus the toubli, hummus..there really is nothing to it and as for the meat, they only give you a teaspoon of it. I’d be better off going to Falafel King or Pharaoah’s on 17AVE as it’s $8.75 for huge wrap bigger than Shawarma Station and loaded with meat and best of all everything is included. You should see Shwarma’s station breakdown of extras you gotta pay if you want things on your falafel such as hot sauce, olives, garlice sauce etc. RIDICULOUS. The owner cared to explain why his prices are more expensive than others by saying he pays $10,000 a month for rent! WOW …again ridiculous how he had to mention his rent to backup why he rips his customers off.

    • Unfortunate for him he has to pay so much and he’d likely only mention it to a customer if he were having problems. Lease rates for business in Calgary are obscene and both the busines owner and customers suffer for it. This is what we get when all that matters is the bottom line for the investor, hope that those with money in REITs know what havoc they are causing.

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