The Detroit area is populated with some pretty amazing Middle Eastern food. This is due, of course, to the high population of people from that region. Thus, I operate under the impression that you can’t go wrong with any place because of the big time competition. So when I stepped into Shawarma Kingdom in Birmingham, I walked in with expectations.
One thing that has been sorely missing from my life since packing up and moving to the more easterly part of the country is Middle Eastern food. You know, that and beaches. But seriously, I found Salem’s in Pittsburgh, but not so much in Buffalo. So when I took a trip back home to Michigan for a weekend Middle Eastern was one thing I craved more than anything else, even more than Coney.
It’s not often I get out to Playa Del Rey for food, but there’s something about house sitting in a place that inspires you to eat there. In the mood for an adventure we took a walk around and stumbled upon Playa’s Pita, a possessive and alliterative Lebanese restaurant that seemed a lot better than pizza or Chinese.
As an unvegan, I usually shy away from falafel. It’s not veggie-based, but it’s also not meat and I would typically rather fill my stomach with schwarma when I have the opportunity. Yet, in heading out to Falafel Arax, I had heard they had the best falafel in the land of Los Angeles and I knew I would end up getting some. The place resides in a little corner strip mall in a strange part of town east of Hollywood that I usually wouldn’t find myself in, but the temptation of having amazing Lebanese falafel was enough to get me there. Oh, and before I go any further, I should mention they are cash only. With that said, let’s get on to the food.
When my buddy recommended heading to a place called Mantee in Studio City, I was really excited to eat a sea cow and hoped the manatees were farm-raised (because we all know they are endangered in the wild). But he quickly corrected me, saying that the restaurant was lacking that all-important second “a” and was actually Mediterranean. And one look at the menu showed this was not your typical Mediterranean. There were no schwarma wraps to be seen here and instead items like that were replaced by unique Lebanese, Turkish and Armenian delights.
In the quest to finally find some good schwarma in LA, I made my way to a little Lebanese place called Sunnin Cafe. I have fond memories of delicious Lebanese food back in Michigan, so I hoped that this place would be at least a little awesome. Getting there was a little confusing, though, as it appeared as though there were two Sunnins, right across the street from each other. On further inspection, it looked like the larger of the two is unopened and the small place will be moving in there soon.
The inside of the little cafe gave the appearance of a generic diner. There were seats
at a counter and no more than ten small tables. The big difference, though, was the strong smell of the Middle East and the rotating spool of meat where a deep-fryer might typically belong. I also loved that they made no effort to hide the fact that the cooks were Hispanic. It’s a pretty widely known fact that kitchens of ethnic restaurants all over LA are filled with Hispanics, despite the fact that waiters and such fit into the ethnicity. It was refreshing to see that Sunnin didn’t hide that aspect of their business.
We ordered some “hommos” (love the spelling) to start things off.
Having heard a lot about Zankou Chicken from my friend who bewilderingly never invited me there, I finally got up the gumption to go myself.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect from Middle-Eastern fast food, but it turned out to be just like it sounds. The place was set up similar to any other fast food place, except in place of grills, they had rotating spools of meat.
I had to choose between getting straight-up chicken, a plate or a wrap, most of which involved vegetables in some way. In the mood for a wrap, I decided to order the Schawerma. At Zankou, the schawerma consisted of steak, with onions, tomatoes, sesame sauce and hummus. I asked for mine without onions or tomatoes, and since the wrap was so cheap, I ordered a side of hummus and pita.
Within a few minutes, my meal was ready. It was a little discomforting to see a little bowl filled with beets and some sort of bright green pepper, but I was thankful that they had been quarantined into their own bowl and hadn’t touched my real food.
A friend of mine recommended Gaby’s Mediterranean in Palms, so I thought I would check it out. They have a great outdoor seating area, so I was sure to grab one of those tables to enjoy the unseasonably warm weather we’ve been having in LA.
When I arrived and took a look at the menu, I was a little taken aback. Despite having many countries along its coast, I have always associate Mediterranean food with being predominantly Greek. Of course, Mediterranean could cover anything from Spanish to Egyptian, and in this case, I found the food to be quite Lebanese. I was surprised because I typically consider Lebanese food to be Middle-Eastern, but I was also happy because I’ve always liked Lebanese food. Did I say Lebanese enough in the last few sentences?