Late last year, I wrote about a new custom sushi restaurant, Tamaki, that opened in Ann Arbor. It works like a Subway or Chipotle where you pick your wrapping, then the fillings and toppings to customize your meal just the way you want it. I love this place! I also am learning to love this ordering system.
While in Virginia last week, I met up with an awesome friend from high school and met her adorable family. We all went to dinner at a place called Baytna. Why I haven't seen a place like this in Michigan, I don't know! It works like the above-mentioned choose-your-own restaurants, but it's Mediterranean, and you can make things like shawarma, kabobs, and falafel.
You start with your choice of pita, rice, or salad, then select your protein, chicken or beef shawarma, chicken or beef kabob, or falafel (chickpeas, onion, and spices "fried to golden brown"). Last comes a generous selection of add-ons and sauces. I had chicken shawarma on rice with sliced tomatoes, pickles, pickled turnips, and garlic sauce. It was delicious! And I finally learned what those pink pickled things are in shawarma: pickled turnips. I can't recall eating turnips, though I am sure I have, probably in a stew, so I can't really say if I like them or not. I do love them in shawarma, though! In fact, they are one of my favorite parts.
Baytna is only located in Alexandria, Virginia, so unfortunately there is a very limited audience to whom I can say "Go check them out." If you are in the area, though, and are in the mood for some quick Mediterranean street food made to order, definitely stop by. They make all of the food there and it's fresh. We had to wait a few minutes for the chicken to finish roasting! I also got to watch as they made the falafel for my friend's daughter. It was neat!
I have been inspired to try this at home. Obviously, as much as I want to because it would be awesome, I can't set up the rotating meat spit in my kitchen. But our friends at Game Night did manage to find a make-at-home shawarma-tasting chicken kit that I could probably find again somewhere. They had set up a table like a taco bar, but for shawarma, and it was fantastic. I love Mediterranean food. I might like it more than Japanese food. (Wow, that's a really tough call.)
Hm, there's a thought for a wedding banquet: a custom sushi table and a custom shawarma table. Yes, please!