I have lived in Calgary for about a decade now and have gone to several little Middle Eastern joints serving up (often late-night) donairs, shawarmas, falafels and more. One place I had not yet visited is Sammy’s Shawerma on 17th Ave. There was no particular reason, other than I never think to go because it’s an awkward street to stop being as busy as it often is.
Today I was craving a little donair and I live fairly close now so I decided I would check it out. When I walked in, Sammy (who I quickly realized is quite a character) was on the phone. He immediately hung up and welcomed me with a huge smile on his face. The first thing I noticed is how small the space is and the obvious lack of a flat top grill (generally used to warm the meat). I also noticed how clean it was; everything has a place and for as small a space as it is, it is well-organized and spotless.
I ordered a regular donair for $6.99 on brown pita. When Sammy shaved the donair meat I have to admit I was wondering how the meat would be warmed and in the panini maker it went. I first thought that can’t be the best way to warm the meat. But I have to say (and unexpectedly so), I think I might like this method better. I find the meat to get really dry sometimes and I don’t know if it was the lack of the grill or what, but the meat was fantastic. It really held in the moisture and flavour. The pita was filled with an abundance of lettuce, tomatoes, white onions, banana peppers, pickled cabbage and pickles. Then I was given the choice of a variety of sauces (sweet, tahini, garlic, tzatziki, hot sauce, and a spicy mustard); I chose the sweet and garlic sauces. This was probably the best part - so many times I find places to really cheap out on the sauces. That doesn’t work for me because I LOVE sauce. Sammy was incredibly generous putting it onto the pita under all the vegetables and then asking if I would like anymore on top. When I saw him take out the pita – I thought it was a bit small for $6.99, but once you add four big slices of donair meat and pack it full of veg like he does – you definitely get your money’s worth. Plus, instead of wrapping half the pita up like other places do – he jams them full to the edge and then wraps them up tight in parchment paper.
All in all, I really enjoyed my donair and would definitely go back. On top of that, Sammy was really nice, smiling the whole time, he thanked me for coming in and a few times more throughout my order and our brief conversation. When there’s a million corporate crappy places to eat – I will be happy to support this guy again.