The following is a review of Abuja restaurants that serve Shawarmas as one of their main menu items. An anonymous group of 5 judges courageously gorged themselves on eating the following 10 fast food staples. In no particular order:
*** Mamman Kato’s - “The Shirt Stainer”
Weighing in at twelve ounces, this 800 Naira mammoth took only 5 minutes of waiting time. Enjoy Mama Kato’s Big Shawarma with caution. As one of our reviewers discovered, the shawarma may open, dump contents, and ruin clothing at any time. It’s worth the hassle. Crispy chicken, no gristle, and flavorful balance of mayonnaise and pepe made Mama Kato’s mess stand out from the crowd. And don’t be fooled by Mama’s outdoor glass-encased grill, colourful aprons, and “chit” claim system – the friendly staff are as orderly as their final product. Quick, good value, excellent flavor. Hard to beat.
Location: Wuse II, Next to Drumsticks on Aminu Kano Crescent
Also at Maitama Amusement Park
* AJ’s – “The Dusty.”
550 Naira, 9.5 oz., 6 minute wait time. Expats and locals appreciate AJ’s roadside convenience, broad menu offerings, and value for money. But AJ’s shawarma station seems an afterthought to his pizza oven and deep fryer. Instead of rotating a spit grill, AJ tosses chopped poultry in dry spice before oven roasting. Nutmeg and sumac? Cinnamon? Small bites of chicken have a dry, pungent taste. Order AJ’s salty Philadelphia sandwich instead.
Location: Wuse II, near Park N’ Shop on Aminu Kano Crescent
** Shawarma King – “The Peoples Shawarma”
This eleven ounce 800 Naira shawarma has good flavor, good sauce, and a good mix of chicken and cabbage. At lunch hour the place can get crowded, however the wait time on this occasion was only 7 minutes. The one drawback was that some of the chicken was overcooked on this occasion, even charred in places which gave a burnt taste and crunch to some bites. Parking can be a problem at times at this Gana Street thoroughfare, but the restaurant has a good setup for lunch time take-away and has a nice seating area in the evenings (with a wine shop next door that sells chilled beer). The chicken is cooked on spits under a covering next to the counter, giving confidence to consumers that the meat is freshly cooked. There is also good seating while you wait; the place is run very efficiently and wait times are short even on busy days. Recommendation: the payment system could be improved so that the cooks do not pass the money back to the cashier. Overall, this one is a consistent winner..
Location: Maitama on Gana Street
** 212 – “The Harmattan”
Although the price tag of 950 Naira is a bit hefty, this twelve ouncer is a filling shawarma with lots of meat packed in. It’s shorter than some, but it’s got great girth that seems to keep customers happy. The recipe is simple and straight forward without many bells and whistles. The taste team noted that the chicken was a little dry; others suggested that maybe the low sauce to chicken ratio gives this impression. The wait time of 7 minutes can be comfortably passed watching CNN on a flat screen in the air conditioned sitting area or browsing for wine in the adjacent store. Parking is usually manageable during the lunchtime hour, and the three-tiered operational structure (manager, cashier, and cook) keeps everything in order. Recommendation: shawarma eaters take comfort in seeing their meat being grilled to perfection, so don’t hide away the fun in the kitchen.. This one won’t wow your palate, but it makes for a good lunch on the run.
Location: Maitama off Gana Street
** Amigos – “El Burrito”
An 8 oz shawarma, costing N700 with a wait time of 4 minutes. I got a parking space this time, but that was luck. The chicken on the spit was in view and I felt confident enough that it was clean. The cashier was at a separate counter. Service was fast, but could have been friendlier. You can always buy bananas from the girls outside. The taste team noted an average wrap quality. The ingredients included potato, but a nice amount. It was heavy on the cabbage, and two team members reported gristle. It was quite sour, which some liked, but others were not so keen on. By and large, a good, solid performance.
Location: On Adetokumbo Ademola Crescent between Ahmadu Bello and IBB Way
*** Exclusive – “The Contender”
A 9 oz shawarma, costing N650, with an 8 minute turnaround. There is a parking lot, which can be full, but if so there is plenty of space in the road outside. The chicken on the spit was visible and the environment was very clean. The cashier was at a separate counter. Service was friendly. I got in a spot of shopping while waiting. The taste team noted mayo and chicken ingredients. It was a bit greasy but not unpleasantly so. No one reported gristle. Meat confidence was good. The spiciness was unanimously approved.
Location: Down the road from the Rockview Hotel near the corner of IBB Way on Adetokumbo Ademola Crescent
* Shawama Place – “The Sweet One”
This twelve ounce behemoth at 800 Naira took over 15 minutes before the meal was handed over. Without notification, the dreaded hotdog was included in this transaction which for most of the panel would have meant automatic disqualification (the 600 Naira sibling is sans dog). The shawarma had a sweet flavour to it with minimal amount of spice. So, if you are in the Garki II area and you have a sweet tooth with time to spare, this is the place for you.
* Legends of Abuja – “The Value Meal”
If you are in a hurry and don’t have much money for lunch, then Legends is the meal that can’t be beat. With a waiting time of 6 minutes and a price of 500 Naira, this is the ideal place to take your future wife. This 10 ounce coronary cornucopia will tease your taste buds with the flavours of chicken, pickles, and french fries. However, the flavour was a little bland and the sauce could have been more memorable.
Location: Garki II off Gimbia Street on Port Harcourt Crescent (across from Crystal Palace Hotel)
*** Cherry’s (at Dunes) – “The Beruit”
Nine minutes, 7 ounces, 750 Naira. Possibly the most unique shawarma in all of Abuja. Connoisseurs’ will enjoy this original Mediterranean creation that offers an alternative to the more traditional compilations of cabbage, chopped chicken, mystery sauce, pepper, and even the occasional errant sausage. While the price is average and the portion slightly below average, one thing is evident at Cherry’s as opposed to many other shawarma factories around town: the ingredients and taste are deliberate and leave a customer knowing that, for better or for worse, this sandwich was no accident. Located in the midst of the Dunes grocery store, with polite and welcoming staff, Cherry’s is as relaxing a place one could find to wait for their food. While there are plenty of distractions to occupy a customer in the grocery store, individuals also have the rare opportunity to watch their shawarma meat cooked at the open grill area behind the counter. While this outfit is perfect for take away (they take calls so order can be ready upon arrival) a major drawback is the parking. A lunch run is strongly discouraged for those without a driver as parking can be horrendous at the noon hour. But at the end of the day, Cherry’s comes through with a unique, flavourful and classic shawarma in a comfortable environment. We will be back.
Location: Dunes complex near Catholic Church in Maitama.
* British Council – “The Tony Blair”
Seventeen minutes wait time for 7 ounces of shawarma at 1,000 Naira. Shawarma on the go? Not the place. Shawarma without passing through a metal detector? Not the place. Shawarma with an easy parking spot and no mountain of stairs to the service counter? Not the place. Shawarma that is overpriced, underweight but offers the consolation prize of relaxing outdoor seating with a view of Maitama where customers can watch Abuja traffic chaotically flow through the roundabout, sometimes producing a fender bender and public shouting match? YES! (Sorry, metal detector bit probably isn’t fair…having never seen anyone stopped by a guard after they set it off, it isn’t really imposing, inconvenient or intimidating).
Most would expect what they get at the British Council. The restaurant, while it does have some enjoyable dishes, has never been as much about the quality of food as it has been about the outdoor, high-perched seating area which can be the perfect place to unwind with a drink after work or to gather colleagues for a refreshing and relaxing work lunch. However, the shawarma would scarcely be recommended over other dishes…primarily the pizza. Shawarma is reserved for those who come to British Council for other reasons and are either not very hungry or are running low on naira. The taste is decent, but not good enough to make the true shawarma connoisseur forget about the quality wraps they could have gotten for less elsewhere. But, a nice evening, a good group of friends and a cold beer will make you forget most of the British Council downsides. Just keep it to one beer or you need to go all the way back to the guard house to take a leak…
Location: Maitama roundabout