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Food & dining

Cheap Eats

Shawarma, falafel, and more in Davis Square

The Shwarma Place chef Edward (Ahmad) Kawash serves up a vegetarian combo of falafel, tabouli, hummus, baba ghanoush, salad, pita, and stuffed grape leaves; foul mudama, a fava bean puree; and the lamb and beef shawarma plate (pictured).

Dina Rudick/Globe Staff

The Shwarma Place chef Edward (Ahmad) Kawash serves up a vegetarian combo of falafel, tabouli, hummus, baba ghanoush, salad, pita, and stuffed grape leaves; foul mudama, a fava bean puree; and the lamb and beef shawarma plate (pictured).

It happened by accident. I was the very first customer at The Shawarma Place. I was running errands in Davis Square and noticed that the Wing Works next to Domino’s had a new sign hung above the door. Drawn in by the scent of garlic and spiced meat, I poked my head in the door. A kind-faced, gray-haired man in pressed chef whites handed me what turned out to be the best shawarma this side of the Charles. On several visits since that January day, the food has been notably fresh and flavorful.

The chef is Edward (Ahmad) Kawash, who co-owns The Shawarma Place with business partner Omar Mousa. Originally from Lebanon, with Palestinian heritage, Kawash has a culinary degree from the Cordon Bleu in Cambridge. He’s worked in several restaurants, and managed Moody’s Falafel Palace in Cambridge for three years before opening The Shawarma Place. Kawash, 55, says he’s been cooking this food for 30 years.

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That lamb and beef shawarma ($7.99) — which prompted immediate consumption, alone, in a parking lot — contains thin slices of lamb and beef, which are marinated for 24 hours before being alternately stacked, and slow-roasted on a rotating spit. Kawash explains that the fattier lamb bastes the leaner beef for a balanced shawarma. It’s topped with tomatoes, onions, tahini sauce, and Lebanese pickles, to cut through the rich, spiced meat. Wrapped in a thin pita, the shawarma is a delicious lunch on-the-go. For dinner, try it as a plate with salad, hummus, and rice ($10.99).

THE SHAWARMA PLACE

201 Elm St., Davis Square, Somerville 617-666-9000.

Liquor:
None.
Suggested dish:
Foul mudamas, lamb and beef shawarma, vegetarian combo plate, meat combo plate.
Prices:
Appetizers $3.99-6.99. Sandwiches $5.99-7.99. Entrees $7.99-$11.99.
Hours:
Daily 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Credit cards:
Mastercard and Visa accepted.
Handicap accessibility:
Bathrooms not wheelchair accessible.

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From the authentic tabbouleh, with just enough cracked wheat to bind the bright, lemony mix of parsley, tomatoes, and cucumber, to the juicy chicken shawarma, most everything on the menu can be ordered as a sandwich or as a plate. For a little bit of everything, find a friend willing to share, and order a meat combo ($11.99), and a vegetarian combo ($8.99). The meat combo plate comes with chicken shawarma, lamb and beef shawarma, kafta (a ground lamb and beef patty), chicken kebab and fresh pita, along with salad, hummus, and rice or fries. It will satisfy any carnivore.

But this is also a perfect place to bring vegetarians, as more than half the menu is meatless. The vegetarian combo is a generous plate of crisp falafel, bright tabbouleh, creamy hummus, smoky baba ganoush, salad, pita, and, though it doesn’t say on the menu, briny stuffed grape leaves.

Foul mudamas (sandwich $5.99, plate $7.99), is a real treat, a warm fava bean puree, swirled with olive oil, garlic, and lemon. Or warm up with brown lentil soup ($3.99), a grainy, flavorful, bowl of pureed legumes, carrots, and cumin.

The only major complaint is that the small restaurant, with attentive counter service, and a few tables, is absolutely frigid. The first visit, it could be blamed on sitting next to the door on a very cold night. Another evening, the whole room feels like a meat-locker, too cold to eat with our coats on, so we take it to go.

The service, however, is anything but frosty. Kawash and the young men running between the kitchen and the counter are sweet and helpful, accommodating all kinds of requests and substitutions from customers, and offering samples of any of the food on the line.

“It’s my way of showing hospitality,” says Kawash. “I’ve been waiting to do this for a long time.”

Catherine Smart can be reached at cathjsmart@gmail.com.

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