- Courtesy Of Mr. Shawarma
- Chicken and beef shawarma with hummus and stuffed grape leaves at Mr. Shawarma
When Aymen Aref was a boy growing up in Baghdad, Iraq, his family owned a restaurant that served shawarmas, roasted-meat sandwiches similar to gyros. Eight years ago, his family moved to Essex Junction, where Aref recently debuted his own restaurant, Mr. Shawarma.
"It's always been my dream to open a restaurant," said Aref, now 22, whose business is located at 137 Pearl Street, beside the Champlain Valley Exposition. "So, when the opportunity came, I took it."
The eatery, which opened on December 29, serves chicken and beef shawarma. The meat is marinated for 14 hours, then cooked on a rotisserie. Offered in a pita or shrak flatbread wrap, the sandwich comes with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pickles and garlic mayonnaise.
"It's a very popular food in Iraq," Aref said.
Mr. Shawarma also offers a range of other Middle Eastern fare, such as hummus, tabbouleh, falafel, baba ghanoush and stuffed grape leaves. Shawarma platters include meat and a choice of sides.
Business has been very good since the restaurant's opening, according to Aref. "It's amazing," he said. "It seems like people know shawarmas from traveling, so they are excited to try it out here."
The restaurant is Aref's second Essex business. A graduate of the automotive program at Center for Technology, Essex, he also owns Clean & Clear Auto Detail at 18 Lincoln Street.
Mr. Shawarma opens daily at 11 a.m.; it closes at midnight Sunday through Thursday, and at 4 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. The restaurant offers online ordering and delivery within a 10-mile radius.