Shawarma King Is Now Open in the Delmar Loop

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The mix shawarma and rice, a platter that also comes with a small salad and tahini sauce. - PHOTO BY SARAH FENSKE
  • PHOTO BY SARAH FENSKE
  • The mix shawarma and rice, a platter that also comes with a small salad and tahini sauce.

If your idea of shawarma is a sort of dried-out chicken, served in a pita doused with tahini, you might want to get yourself to the Loop, stat. There, the street's newest restaurant, Shawarma King (571 Melville Avenue, University City; 314-261-4833), is serving a version of the Middle Eastern spit-roasted meat so flavorful, and so delicious, you'll swear you were tasting it for the first time.

The proprietor of Shawarma King, which opened one week ago in the spot that previously held Zippy Burger, is named Mohammed Alsalem. A restaurant industry veteran, he's worked at other Middle Eastern concepts in St. Louis, though he'd rather not have them named, and he's confident that his new venture can find customers — even though there's plenty of competition. The Loop alone has three other Middle Eastern restaurants, two of them fast-and-affordable counter service spots like his own. Still, he'll put his shawarma up against any other place in town.

"When people see how we slice the meat," he says, pointing to the two rotisserie spits visible from the counter, "they'll see."

What he wants them to see is that both his beef and his chicken shawarma are marinated overnight in his unique vinegar-based blends, each of which includes a host of hand-ground spices.

"We want people to enjoy fresh meat," he says. "We don't keep anything in the freezer. Everything is served fresh, including the pita."

The payoff? Tender chunks of meat with delicate seasoning and a truly wonderful texture — even the chicken is so soft it seems to melt in your mouth. Served on a platter with rice and a salad or in a softly folded pita with crisp pickle slices, it's too tasty to require tahini sauce; the flavors can hold their own.

The "veg platter" includes a bit of everything you love from Middle-Eastern restaurants. - PHOTO BY SARAH FENSKE
  • PHOTO BY SARAH FENSKE
  • The "veg platter" includes a bit of everything you love from Middle-Eastern restaurants.

And that's not all Shawarma King is doing here. The "veg platter" — an absolute steal at lunch for just $7.99 — includes balls of house-made falafel, tabbouleh and grape leaves stuffed with rice, as well as hummus and a wonderfully smoky baba ganoush. It's a gorgeous plate and just as tasty.

Prices are quite reasonable: $5.75 for a falafel sandwich or $6.75 for the chicken, beef or mixed shawarma versions, with fries for an additional $1.50. Or try the mixed shawarma platter: It includes both beef and chicken as well as rice, tahini and an Arabic salad for $10.99.

"It's a reasonable price and a big nice meal," Alsalem promises. "We want people to eat more for less."

Like its predecessor, which closed in October, Shawarma King is spare, but cheerful. Small lanterns smile from the windowsills, while a trio of tin stars hang on the wall. The walls have been a painted a soft yellow, with blue windowsills providing a pop of color.

Alsalem plans to open every day from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and he's happy to take call-in orders. They've just signed up with GrubHub and Food Pedaler for those too lazy to come on down. And the good news is that the shawarma remains just as tasty even after you've nuked it in the microwave. The marinade on this meat is simply incredible; you'd have to work pretty hard to mess it up.

See more photos of Shawarma King below.

Owner Mohammed Alsalem was born in St. Louis but grew up in Jordan. He returned here seventeen years ago. - PHOTO BY SARAH FENSKE
  • PHOTO BY SARAH FENSKE
  • Owner Mohammed Alsalem was born in St. Louis but grew up in Jordan. He returned here seventeen years ago.

The chicken shawarma sandwich comes wrapped in a pita with a little slaw of cabbage and orange peel on the side, as well as pickles. - PHOTO BY SARAH FENSKE
  • PHOTO BY SARAH FENSKE
  • The chicken shawarma sandwich comes wrapped in a pita with a little slaw of cabbage and orange peel on the side, as well as pickles.

The space is simple, but cheerful. - PHOTO BY SARAH FENSKE
  • PHOTO BY SARAH FENSKE
  • The space is simple, but cheerful.

Rasheed Al Nwateer works the rotisserie, which is visible from the front counter. - PHOTO BY SARAH FENSKE
  • PHOTO BY SARAH FENSKE
  • Rasheed Al Nwateer works the rotisserie, which is visible from the front counter.
The space is just off the Loop, in the former home of Zippy Burger on Melville. - PHOTO BY SARAH FENSKE
  • PHOTO BY SARAH FENSKE
  • The space is just off the Loop, in the former home of Zippy Burger on Melville.

We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at sarah.fenske@riverfronttimes.com

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