Update 1/20/15: Kaslik has moved. It's now at 7847 N. Lindbergh Boulevard in Hazelwood.
Since 1998, Wasem Hamed has wanted to open a Middle Eastern restaurant in Florissant. He saw a lack of the food he enjoyed growing up and learned to cook at culinary school in Jerusalem, and also the demand, from a strong Middle Eastern population in north St. Louis County.
It has taken fifteen years, but Kaslik Restaurant (8141 North Lindbergh Boulevard, Florissant; 314-972-8282) is now serving Middle Eastern fare seven days a week, especially the popular beef shawarma.
"Most places carry this item," Hamed says. "We're honestly the only place in St. Louis making the real shawarma."
Poised at the rotisserie, Hamed elaborates on his declaration. After marinating the meat overnight, he explains, he stacks the beef onto a spit and puts it into the machine, where it slowly rotates, and slowly cooks. The meat is cut to order, grilled quickly and served with pickles and onions tossed with sumac.
"That's what makes the shawarma, the machine," he says. "It's not like a grilled chicken or beef. That's what makes it the real shawarma. It has to be on a machine."
Kaslik also serves kebabs, beef kefta and a host of vegetarian options. The vegetarian platter we sampled contained falafel, hummus, baba ghannouj (grilled eggplant purée with tahini and garlic), bakdunsyah (fresh parsley, tahini and garlic) and a Turkish salad made of tomato, onion and parsley.
Hamed's attention to detail goes beyond being particular about shawarma. He also makes it point to import his spices from Jerusalem. Asked why, he replies that there's no comparison to what he can get here. Pointing to a pair of tubs containing chickpeas soaking, he notes that each contains a different variety of chickpea for a specific dish -- one for falafel, one for hummus.
Kaslik is open daily from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. The restaurant's web presence is minimal, but you can get in touch the old-school way at 314-972-8282.