I always enjoy my visits to A&A and have dropped in several times over the years. I’ve seen it go through the changes from small family corner store to the hip and popular deli counter it has now evolved into at the hands of the original owners’ son Jimmy.
A&A is located at 1401 – 20th Ave NW just one block East of 14th Street on the South side of 20th Ave.
Nancy and I made our most recent visit because she had been only a few times and neither of us had visited in quite awhile. I decided that since we both loved Shawarma and the recent versions we’d tried had left us unsatisfied it was time for a trip to the shawarma mecca that is Jimmy’s A&A and fill the void left by the sub-par offerings of many other local spots.
We drove up, exited the car and were greeted by the sight of regulars sitting in the sun enjoying their purchases and hearing the music and banter from inside that has become an A&A hallmark. As always upon entering we were greeted by the friendly staff and after a minute or two were asked what we would like.
The store has yet again changed from the last time I’d visited and is now very much geared to the deli side of things with far fewer of the corner store items that used to fill shelves at the rear of the building, there are now just a few shelves and a cooler with the basics such as milk and butter. Now a much larger deli counter and line of coolers occupy the space than previously had been, these now taking up the entire centre of the store in a long line of tempting food offerings. One cooler is dedicated exclusively to Baklava and other sweets and looks amazing, another is full of a large variety of Mediterranean items such as Falafel and tubuli along with some Jamaican patties, samosas and many other delicious cold dishes.
There are the other things that Jimmy has always stocked such as strong middle eastern coffees and nuts along with sheesha pipes, sauces and a variety of olives. However the thing most people come for and the one item we were specifically in the place to buy was the Shawarma.
Nancy ordered a medium chicken with some of the many toppings and I had a gyro(Donair) meat version with a little of everything they had, we also picked a few pieces of baklava for after and I bought a small cup of feta stuffed olives to take home. If you like shawarma or donair you need to visit Jimmy’s at least once if only to watch them build your meal, the amount of food they pile on the pita is truly amazing and watching it is a drool inducing experience that builds the anticipation of the final product and at least to me adds to the experience. Having Jimmy behind the counter chatting with you and other customers is always an added bonus although on this occasion he was outside playing with his old Porsche speedster. His brother was there though and we enjoyed talking with him as he helped us out.
We payed for our food and went outside to sit at one of the tables in the sun. As is always the case our shawarmas were huge, there was no chance at all that the pita could ever fully encircle the meat and veggies inside. Eating a shawarma or donair is always an adventure and these monsters are even more so, I had once become so adept at eating Jimmy’s largest offering that I was able to do so while driving my courier van and not make a mess. Now it seems that I’ve lost my touch and the result was predictably messy and truly funny to behold.
The wraps were as good as ever, the meat was tender and flavored just right. The sauce was tasty and lots of it covered the fresh veggies and piles of meat. Nancy said that she found the chicken just a little dryer than she prefers but enjoyed her food none the less. It would be nice to be able to have some of the rarer things offered by some shawarma places to top the meat such as turnip and different pickle but if we want these we can head to other places and even then we can only get them during certain times of the year.
The experience we had was great as was the food. My only complaint would have to be the olives. After arriving home I tried a couple of them and found that the feta had obviously been in the brine far too long. It had turned brown and was very dry and the flavor was off. It would seem that cheese is one thing that can only be eaten in stuffed olives for a limited amount of time. I removed the feta and enjoyed the large tasty olives by themselves.
Simply put, if you love shawarma and donair or are looking to buy some tasty Mediterranean treats than you need to drop by and say hi to Jimmy, you won’t regret it.
On the corner of 20th Avenue and 12th Street NW, Calgary, is a 2 story building that looks like a corner mama/papa grocery store; the type that has one door at the front that would lead into a fluorescent lit store with penny candy jars and a side door leading up to an apartment where the store’s owner would live. For Jimmy’s A&A though, they has modified this old building with a smooth running donair / schawarma / Middle East food business. The front door now leads into a long row of food display cases from front to the back of the building. Five to six rotisseries of donair and schawarma meat cook behind the cases. Servers are running up and down to grab customer’s orders. There are trays and trays of assorted baklavas (cashew, walnut, honey, pistachio), various types of stuffed olives (jalapenos, cheese, habaneros), and a few other mixes such as tabouli and hummus.
I ordered my favorite, a chicken schawarma, while Hubby ordered his usual, a donair. Medium instead of the small or large choices. Jimmy’s younger brother took our order on brown paper bags with our names on it. The friendly servers began to layer our orders with our desired vegetables. It was coated with garlic sauce and hot sauce, as requested. We moved down the glass cases and picked up some baklava, olives, and cold drinks. We sat down at one of the concrete table outside along the side and tore a strip in the paper wrapping. For $8.75 medium, we couldn’t believe how big our schawarma and donair were! WOW! Better still, the taste was worth it and more.
The chicken was moist and tender. The veggies were crisp. The garlic sauce was tasty. I had a difficult time trying to keep it together since there was so much stuff! The sauce got all over my hands and even dripped on my shirt. Do get a lot of napkins before eating! Nothing overpowered each other. Nothing popped out either that I would say ‘what a killer amazing flavor.’ It was a healthy, filling schawarma. My walnut pistachio baklava was chewy and sweet.
Hubby mentioned that his donair was worth coming back to again and again. After being disappointed when the server couldn’t find any containers with blue cheese stuffed olives, his second choice, a feta stuffed olive, was terrible. The cheese tasted stale and looked yellow. He had to remove and toss the cheese away.
Jimmy came around later with such effervescence, chatting with people, jumping out of his classic convertible porsche, and strolling around with an air of casualness. It was a beautiful night to sit outside and enjoy a good meal. There was a steady flow of drive-by business and neighborhood walkers while we were there.
As for the grocery side of this business, they have quite a large assortment of packaged spices and canned goods typical for Lebanese meals. Were they of good brands and quality? Couldn’t tell you but I’m sure many of the people working there could tell you. The shisha pipes were about $129 and up if you wanted to buy one. Oh, the tiled floor is broken up so be careful walking around. There’s a little step by the cashier that you might miss so watch out.
Give it a try at Jimmy’s A&A. Good value. Good taste. Good service. The parking is along the street. There’s about 10 – 15 chairs to pull up around a few side tables if you want to munch on your quick meal.
I’m going to suggest for them to put out some recycling buckets though. There’s garbage cans but nothing for my empties.