Shawarmageddon: Meals and metal

“Have you ever tried shawarma? There’s a shawarma joint about two blocks from here. I don’t know what it is, but I want to try it.”  — Iron Man/Tony Stark

shawarma avengers

I admit, the only thing I knew about shawarma is that it was mentioned in Marvel’s The Avengers and a quick gag shown at the end of that movie’s credits.

Now, after visiting Shawarmageddon in Reno, Nevada, I find myself asking where have you been all my life?

Shawarma is not so much a type of food as a type of preparation. I spoke to one of the preparers at Shawarmageddon, and he explained that it is the roasting method, usually on a vertical spit, that makes it shawarma. However, based on my experience, and research, shawarma usually refers to this meat as it is used in a wrap, with spices and vegetables.

shawarmageddon door and window

Shawarmageddon is located at 501 W 1st St, with its entrance on Ralston.

Shawarmageddon is literally a hole-in-the-wall operation. Located downstairs of the now-closed Pneumatic Diner, it has a small seating area. There is a small window for ordering and paying for food.

The menu is small, with choices of lamb, chicken or vegetarian shawarma, served as a wrap or as a platter.  It also has spiced chick peas as an appetizer, and a variety of tea, soda, and craft beers. The menu is limited, and I think that’s a good thing.

The atmosphere is heavy metal. “Eat and destroy,” a play on the title of Metallica’s classic “Search and Destroy,” is the restaurant’s slogan. Its specials reflect the metal there. For example, it had a special, lamb and other toppings on french fries called “Fries of the Ancient Mariner,” a pun on “Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner” by Iron Maiden.

Did I mention Iron Maiden is my favorite heavy metal band ever? So Shawarmageddon gets a few brownie points for that one.

I have gone to Shwarmageddon twice. Both times I had the lamb shawarma ($8). The wrap includes the restaurant’s home-made flat bread, romaine, tomatoes, onions, mint, cucumber, french fried potatoes, ras al hanout vinegrettte, seasoned labneh, and chili oil.

lamb shawarma

One bite and I was sold! The flavor is a mix of sweet, sour and savory. The lamb was tasty, although a bit dry. The spices are clearly Mediterranean, with a finish that reminded me of cinnamon. Overall, however, the taste was very good, something I’d buy regularly and enjoy.

I’m not sure if the metal theme is something that will appeal to the masses. Honestly, Shawarmageddon’s first goal should be to make money (by selling us an excellent product). While I am perfectly happy ordering my food to the sound of Mastodon, not everyone finds metal appealing.

As a restaurant, its location is a bit of a problem. It is easy to get to, especially for visitors near the western end of downtown Reno. However, there is no signage to catch the attention of people passing the restaurant. I highly recommend some signage for the place.

Shawarmageddon also updated its menu in mid-November, raising prices and changing the make-up of its wraps. Now turkey is offered. I walked into the restaurant (I live in the apartment complex it’s attached to) the other day, and the lamb was $10. Economically, it was just a little too much for me.

The menu changes have also upset customers. Recently on Facebook, customers have complained about the updated menu with comments like:

I hate the new menu. The old one was crazy good. I was eating it like twice a week with my brother John Taglieber. I attempted the new turkey one today and didn’t even finish it. My little shawarma loving heart is broken. — Jessica Levity Daylover
I also am really disappointed with the new menu. The slaw is bland and bitter. The sauces are bland. I miss the yogurt and the tomatoes and the onion and the flavor! I miss the fries inside the wrap! I miss the spicy chick peas! — Brock Young

These are just the opinions of two customers, but it sounds like a bad move to me. However, I have not tried the updated menu. Based on what I had, Shawarmageddon has served one of the best items I have ever eaten. The staff was friendly, helpful and informative.

Reno continues to grow as a foodie town, and Shawarmageddon is a fine example of that spirit.

©  Paul George and The Reno Signal, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Paul George and The Reno Signal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Review: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

CapAmWSpos_bigThere’s something rotten at the headquarters of S.H.I.E.L.D., and it’s up to Captain America to find it and save the world!

Seriously, if I told you more, it would give away too much. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the latest visit to Marvel’s cinematic universe. If there were concerns that the Marvel films were heading for disaster – or at least disappointment – The Winter Soldier delivers the most engaging Marvel film yet.

Steve Rogers, or Captain America, is still having some trouble adjusting to the modern world. But he keeps busy, helping S.H.I.E.L.D. with rescue missions and other assignments. However, he discovers Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) has an agenda that is being kept hidden from Rogers. Meanwhile, Rogers befriends, Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), an Iraq War veteran who helps other vets adjust to life after combat.

And then all hell breaks loose. The film features double-crosses, hidden agendas, political intrigue, ghosts of the past, killer computers, and a clear message about the dangers of giving up freedom for the sake of security.

Iron Man 2 aside, I have enjoyed the Marvel films. However, so many of them have been focused on origin stories. As amazing as The Avengers is, it is really 90 minutes of the characters fighting with each other and a climax featuring an alien invasion, which we knew about early in the film. The Winter Soldier, however, has more plot than the other Marvel films. I found myself being taken deeper into the story as each new plot point or twist was revealed. The plot has a 70s-conspiracy-movie vibe to it.

This is still an action movie, and The Winter Soldier delivers. It features a fantastic car chase and multiple fight scenes. The opening scene, in which Captain America and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) infiltrate a ship overtaken by pirates, features some great sequences, and some great sound editing. My son and I found ourselves cringing at the sound of Captain America giving the bad guys a beat down.

Great performances dominate the movie, with Chris Evans continuing his portrayal of a man living out of sync with the times, yet Steve Rogers never seems like an idiot. Evans acts like a man who is smart, but is still trying to absorb the changes around him. Samuel L. Jackson, who has appeared in nearly all of the Marvel films, gives his best performance as the head of S.H.I.E.L.D.. I have never been a fan of Fury in these films, but his character gets more to do in this film, and Jackson brings humaneness to Fury that I haven’t seen before.  Anthony Mackie joins the cast, giving us a character I liked from the minute he meets Rogers.

And I can’t ignore Robert Redford, an actor not known for just doing acting jobs for a paycheck. His portrayal of Alexander Pierce, Fury’s boss, is complex. Redford shows that he is still one of our greatest living actors, and it’s great to have him in a movie with this much political intrigue.

The Winter Soldier was directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, whose credits include Arrested Development and Community. While there are moments of levity in the film, these two brothers keep the focus on the plot and amazing action scenes.

I’ve only touched the surface of the story here and the twists the film takes. When one character’s identity was revealed, which, if you’ve read comics regularly, you already know, the gasps from audience members were sincere. The directors cleverly help the audience identify the character by dropping clues and then giving them a moment to digest the reveal.

The comic book film has truly matured. The Winter Soldier is outstanding entertainment with a great plot and some exciting scenes. If you’ve been watching these movies, sit through the credits – all of them – to find out where next year’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron is going to take us.

Copyright 2014 Tony George