Every Friday, Roots in Alpharetta features an article on food and dining in a series called Foodie Friday.
Chicken Shawarma. Never have I been as excited about a single entree in an Alpharetta restaurant. Is it a coincidence that a restaurant named for a holy city creates such a heavenly sandwich? I think not. I’ve had dreams about these things. Seriously! I’m also sure my wife and co-workers are tired of hearing me talk about them everyday. If you ask me what I want for lunch most days, shawarma from Jerusalem Bakery is usually what I suggest.
And this is kind of a big deal. I’ve always been intimidated by Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food. Ingredients like olives and yogurts are not my favorites which makes this cuisine a challenge for me. Perhaps finding a Middle Eastern dish I actually like has tainted me a bit. Who knows.
Let me stop singing the virtues of chicken shawarma for a minute and talk about Jerusalem Bakery. These guys are a major distributor of Middle Eastern baked goods. Their stuff is shipped all over the southeast from right here in Alpharetta (and a second location in Marietta). The bakery takes up about half of their retail space, the rest is the deli. Their deli menu features standards like falafels, hummus and baba ghannough in addition to the shawarma (offered as both a plate and sandwich). They also have pizzas, calzones and stromboli.
But let’s get back to the shawarma. They start with a fresh baked pita that’s still warm. Next comes chicken fresh cut from a rotating spit (beef is also available). The chicken is juicy and lightly singed. The rest of the toppings can be added at your direction, almost like you would do at a Subway sandwich place. My tip… Just tell them you want everything. That’ll get you fresh lettuce, tomato and onion. They’ll also throw on a few different pickled veggies. Next comes the sauces which are a combination of garlic and tahini. A hot sauce is available on request. I like the hot sauce but be careful as it can easily overpower the sandwich. Finally they wrap it all up and give it a quick warm-up.
The final product is an explosion of flavors and contrasting textures. The pita is warm and pushes back a little against your teeth. The chicken is tender and juicy, its flavors mixing with the various sauces. The veggies give it a crispness but is cut somewhat by the tartness of the fresh pickles. All in all, it is an amazing sandwich. And the best part? The sandwich combo is only 8 bucks, including a side and drink.
Jerusalem Bakery quickly moved into heavy lunch rotation among my fellow cubicle dwellers. Their Old Milton location is a little hard for us to reach from east Windward, but it’s worth the effort. Also be warned that their line and service moves a little slow. Get there a little early for lunch or allow yourself some extra time. Trust me on this one… your patience will be rewarded.