“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
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 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.
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.