Location: 1322 H St NE (X2, X9 buses)
I'm all moved in and finally ready to explore my neighborhood! For those of you who don't know where I am, I live in the H Street/Atlas District of Northeast DC. From what I've seen so far, it's an awesome little place, with a thriving music scene, great bars, and most of all, plenty of good food. This afternoon, I took a stroll and walked into the first interesting restaurant I could find, a new little diner called Shawafel.
This place just opened up about a year ago; in fact, many of the restaurants in the H Street Corridor have only been around for a short period of time. This area is certainly one of the up and coming neighborhoods in the District, and small business are gradually flocking to take advantage of the economic influx that its new residents have brought to the area.
But enough about that, let's get on to the food! Shawafel calls itself a purveyor of Lebanese food, but quite honestly, I could never taste the difference between "Lebanese," "Middle Eastern," and "Mediterranean" when it comes to restaurants. My taste buds clearly need some more training. Either way, Shawafel's menu includes all of the Middle Eastern dishes that have been popularized here in the States: falafel, shawarma, kafta, kababs, hummus, and baba ghanouj, with Western standbys like french fries on the side.
I went for the eponymous Shawafel sandwich, a clever pun for beef shawarma and falafels wrapped up with lettuce, tomatoes, Lebanese pickles, parsley, and tahini sauce inside a big piece of thin flatbread. The whole thing is then grilled on a panini press to get the wrap all nice and crunchy.
What an incredible taste! First of all, the beef shawarma is perfectly cooked, maintaining its moisture while staying packed with flavor. My issue (I almost wrote beef) with most beef shawarma is how dry it can get while it sits and rotates on the spit they have in most Middle Eastern diners. Not here. And the falafel, fresh out of the fryer, provides that awesome crunch to balance out the chewy/mushy quality that these wraps can have. The pickles, parsley, and tahini sauce add the extra flavors that round out the whole sandwich. But perhaps the best part of all is how amazingly light the sandwich tastes. And by light I mean devoid of the heavy grease, oil, and butter that befalls many Middle Eastern restaurants. The Shawafel sandwich was by no means unfilling - I was stuffed after finishing it - but it didn't put me to sleep afterwards.
For proving that Middle Eastern food can both taste good and not require a postprandial coma, Shawafel earns 4 Cherries.