This food isn’t fancy or refined. It’s not even distinctly Georgian. Nope, no adjika here. But when in Georgia, I sometimes crave shaurma like nothing else.
Shaurma — known in other parts of the world as döner, shawarma, gyros — is meat (usually chicken or lamb over here) layered on a vertical spit and grilled for a long period of time. The charred pieces are sliced off the spit and wrapped up in lavash (a very thin, tortilla-like sheet of bread) with tomatoes, onions, spicy pickled peppers and some combination of “secret sauces” — usually ketchup and mayo.
There are a million shaurma stands over here, and frankly, most of them aren’t very good. It’s easy to overcook the meat until it’s dry and tough. Oftentimes the meat-to-bread ratio is way off. And a few of those pickled peppers go a long way.
Usually there’s a small mob of people hovering around the window, making it near impossible to figure out who has ordered and who hasn’t. There is no line. Sometimes it can take forever to get your food, or a guy who ordered 10 minutes after you will somehow get his four shaurmas before you get your one. And with a few of the stands I’ve been to, you probably don’t want to spend too much time looking around at conditions inside the cart.
The experience is inconsistent. But when you get a good one — look out. So what’s a guy to do?
They’ve fixed everything that’s wrong with the shaurma experience. You know where to order and you know where to pick up. Service is fast. You get a number. It’s clean. It’s delicious.
And it’s HUGE. My sashualo (normal/regular – საშუალო) shawarma is easily 14″ long, all for about four American dollars. (Yes, that means there’s a bigger one.)
I haven’t talked to any Georgians yet about what they think of the place, but it’s busy every time I go past and it looks like they’ve got about 88,000 fans on Facebook. Sure, you give up some of the charm of the stereotypical “street food experience” for something systematized, sterile and more than a little reminiscent of a certain fast food joint.
Whatever. I think I hear my number.