by Cheryl Baehr
The chicken schwarma sandwich from Al-Tarboush Deli (602 Westgate Avenue, University City; 314-725-1944) is not exactly pleasing to the eye: It's sloppy, falling apart and looks like a mess to eat. These characteristics may be bad for aesthetic value, but they're what make this classic Middle Eastern wrap a flavor masterpiece.
For nearly two decades, Al-Tarboush Deli has been serving delectable Lebanese cuisine from its tiny storefront off the Loop's main drag. The chicken schwarma sandwich is one of the reasons for its staying power. The dish is made to order, beginning with a thin piece of pita that is liberally spread with a tangy garlic purée.
Chunks of lemony seasoned chicken, fresh parsley and onions are placed on the pita, and the entire thing is smothered in creamy tahini sauce. By the time the sandwich-maker tries to roll it up into wrap form, the schwarma is so overstuffed that it's bursting at the seams, oozing its garlic-sesame sauces. It's rolled in parchment paper to try to stave off the mess -- to no avail. It's not pretty, but it's one of the most mouth-watering sandwich experiences in town.
Previously: #83: Provel Cheese Sticks at Biggie's Restaurant & Bar #84: The Kale, Artichoke & Smoked Bacon Dip at the Restaurant at the Cheshire #84: Crispy Pig Tails at the Libertine #85: The Meatball Sandwich at Leonardo's Kitchen and Wine Bar #86: The Bone-In Strip Steak at 801 Chophouse #87: The Roasted Chicken Spinach Flatbread at Cooper's Legendary American Pub #88: Ramen at Death in the Afternoon #89: Spare No Rib's Pulled Pork Sandwich #90: The Baklava at Vinnie's Italian Beef and Gyros #91: The "Bianca" Pizza at Pizzeoli #92: Dumplings at Lona's Lil Eats #93: A St. Louis-Style Pizza from Frank & Helen's Pizzeria #94: Singapore Mei Fun at Bek-Hee #95: The Monte Cristo at Three Flags Tavern #96: The Meatloaf Blue Plate Lunch at Farmhaus #97: Comet Coffee's Chocolate Chip Cookie #98: Canestri Cacio e Pepe at Pastaria #99: The Granola Pancakes at Whitebox Eatery #100: Chicken Noodle Soup at Grove East Provisions