Abeer Jari arrives at Shawarmar (23 E. Linwood Boulevard) a little over an hour before sunrise. She has spices to blend, marinades to check, and tahini sauce to mix. She tries not to think about her two-and-a-half year-old son, who is in daycare for the first time, as she preps for the day.
“I mix and grind my own spices,” Jari said. “I mix the spice mix for the falafel every morning so you can have that pop in your mouth.”
Shawarmar is a Mediterranean grill in the former Popeye’s space just a half-block from the Midtown Costco. The drive-thru only restaurant offers wraps, bowls, and salads. The chicken shawarma wraps feature fries inside, an addition commonly found in Israeli shawarma.
“We tried shawarma and couldn’t find what we wanted to eat,” Jari said. “The drive-thru made sense because it allowed us to focus on quality and cleanliness.”
Jari owns and operates Shawarmar with her husband Ibraheem Kaseb. The two are from Saudi Arabia, where they met. Both went to college in Michigan, before an engineering position for Kaseb brought them to Kansas City in 2013.
Jari, who studied food and consumer package goods marketing, thought she would open a bakery (her baklava are on the menu at Shawarmar), but she saw a need for quick casual Middle Eastern fare. The recipes are her own; however, she admits to having help along the way.
“I always try to learn from the old ladies. They have the good secrets,” Jari said. “Grandmas are nice, they’ll tell you how to do it.”
In the first month of being open, customers have asked for gyros and Jari has let them down gently explaining that Shawarmar serves kababs, not gyros (a Greek dish featuring meat inside a pita typically dressed with tzatziki sauce, white onion, and tomato). Thinly sliced chicken and a thin patty of ground beef and lamb are cooked on the grill for the kababs. The wraps and pita are delivered twice a week from Wichita.
In addition to crinkle cut fries, the chicken wraps have a creamy garlic sauce and pickles. The deluxe falafel wrap gets hard-boiled eggs, pickled turnips, and a drizzle of tahini. The fattoush or tabouli salad can be topped with shawarma (spit-roasted chicken), shish tawook chicken (cubes of marinated chicken with little pops of cardamom and lemon juice), or falafel. For those that are gluten-free, rice or potato bowls are an option.
“Here you have mashed potatoes as comfort food, but I was raised with bread and rice as comfort food,” Jari said. “My daughter is gluten intolerant, so I would always make her rice at home. That’s where the idea for the rice bowls came from. It’s comfort food for us.”
Shawarmar is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
“We all need to have time for enjoying food as part of our life,” Jari said. “I want people to come here and get good food.”
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