Readers’ choices for the shawarma safari

An end to the shawarma safari with your recommendations.

The delightful one-man show at Shawarma Chef

  • Name + address: Shawarma Chef, 2012 Tenth Line Rd.

  • Type of food: Middle Eastern

  • Prices: $7-$72

  • Diet: Meat, vegetarian

  • Wheelchair accessibility: Yes

  • Licensed: No

  • Website:

One of our readers, Val T., volunteered that Shawarma Chef in Orléeans was the place to go so I went.

It seems that I got there just in time because right behind me, a half dozen other patrons were looking for dinner.

Having only opened in December of 2022, chef/owner Ali was delighted to be awarded the title of Ottawa’s Best Shawarma

At the moment it’s a one-man show and Ali plays all the parts. One moment he was the deep-fry cook and sandwich maestro. The next he was acting as a personable greeter, answering calls and on-line orders and he handled it all with remarkable patience and humour.  Half-way through I was losing my mind on his behalf.

Beef shawarma

Beef shawarma. Ralf Joneikies/Ottawa Lookout

For his sandwiches, he works with both pita and saj breads which is a smart choice as some people prefer saj. The sandwiches are brushed with olive oil, grilled and then sprinkled with sesame seeds.

The beef was delicately seasoned, was just enough and what a nice change that was from some of the over-salted shawarma in the market. The saj chicken too was also tender, delicate and more moist than others I’ve had. All of it was so very good.

Ali takes the time to cut the potatoes for his fries fresh each day. This makes all the difference to his many regulars and it’s difficult to not want his garlic and herb fries just as a snack on their own.

For those who want to change things up a bit, Ali also offers rice bowls with a variety of vegetable and shawarma toppings. 

With so many shawarma shops in Ottawa, it’s far from conclusive what I would consider the city’s “best” but with my introduction to Shawarma Chef, I feel I’ve found a new baseline.

Royal Rooster cuts a different path

Royal Rooster

Royal Rooster. Ralf Joneikies/Ottawa Lookout

  • Name + address: Royal Rooster, 3987 Riverside Dr.

  • Type of food: Middle Eastern

  • Prices: $8.50-$70

  • Diet: Meat, vegetarian

  • Wheelchair accessibility: Yes

  • Licensed: No

  • Website:

You step into a room like this and your expectations are immediately elevated. It’s modern, energetic and to a trained eye, meticulously cared for. The cook's station behind the counter was as clean as any I’ve seen and the staff engaged and friendly. 

One of our readers reached out and recommended Royal Rooster as one of his favourites and I was glad to make the trip.

Looking at the menu, what jumped out at me was that there is no beef. Instead lamb and chicken figure prominently. So a lamb shawarma was what called out to me.

Lamb shawarma

Lamb shawarma. Ralf Joneikies/Ottawa Lookout

The fellow making the wrap told me that their version is Syrian. Once again I expected this was down to the type of bread used. Here they use saj which is a very thin bread that unfolds like a newspaper. As I prefer saj to most pita I was already pleased that I would have a better shawarma experience. 

It was a larger sandwich than the usual and felt that this would be enough to feed two. The toppings were, as you would expect, various vegetables, pickles and sauces. 

As nicely done as it all was, it lacked character. The famous toum (fluffy garlic sauce) had only the faintest whiff of garlic and the lamb tasted like it could have been beef. I dug deep on this one and struggled to find the taste of lamb.

Royal Rooster is an attractive spot but I can’t help but feel that it makes food for the timid or the uninitiated. 

Over in the corner the chickens were roasting on the rotisserie. I left thinking “that looks good” and now I have a series of chicken stories planned. 

The lunchtime specials of Mawlood S

Beef shawarma mawlood s

Beef shawarma. Ralf Joneikies/Ottawa Lookout

  • Name + address: Mawlood S, 491 Somerset St. W.

  • Type of food: Middle Eastern

  • Prices: $8.50-$56

  • Diet: Meat, vegetarian

  • Wheelchair accessibility: No

  • Licensed: No

  • Website:

Mawlood S advertises “Iraqi shawarma” and from what I see this has something to do with the bread in which they wrap the fillings. On my visit I found the bread indistinguishable from any other pita bread I’ve had.

While Middle Eastern food is central to Mawlood S, there is a large selection of chicken dishes and pizza available. 

At lunch they offer a small shawarma sandwich for $6. Unlike most such establishments the toppings were not on view which made it difficult to build your sandwich if you were just going from memory.

One differentiating touch that I appreciated was the addition of slabs of beef fat to the top of the vertical spit that dripped over the roasting meat. This was a welcome seasoning because the sandwich was standard in every other way.

It was also the most slender such sandwich in my experience and perhaps this had something to do with the lunch time pricing. That said, the fellow preparing the food did go out of his way to tell me that he was giving me “a large sandwich for the price of a small.” 

At Mawlood S, they’re cooking by gaslight.

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