Budget Crunch: Shish Kebab Express
There’s a new Iraqi sandwich shop in town, and if you’re a fan of made-to-order kebab, shawirma, or falafel, you must get there immediately. For the unbelievable price of $3.49, you’ll find yourself in possession of an enormous roll, called a samoon. Tucked inside will be tasty slices of whatever protein you select (options include beef, chicken, and falafel), along with tomato, pickles, onions, lettuce, garlic sauce, and tahini sauce. Iraqi samoon has been described as a rugby ball-shaped cross between a bagel, a panini, and a soft white roll. This is a fair description, except it really doesn’t capture the deliciousness that is samoon. (You can also choose to have your sandwich wrapped in a pita, but the samoon is where it’s at.) Add a drink from the cooler for $1.25, and you’ll walk out of Shish Kebab Express with a meal (and a half, perhaps) for under $5.
On a recent dinner visit for our party of three, we chose to get three sandwiches ($3.49 each) and a can of ginger ale ($1.25). The remaining members of our party opted for black tea, which has a nice, strong flavor and is available free of charge. I asked the guy behind the counter for his advice when it came to ordering, and I was glad that I did. I’d recommend that you do the same. He steered us away from beef shawirma and lamb rice and stew that day, insisting that we return another day for those items. Instead he recommended chicken shawirma, beef kebab, and falafel for our sandwich choices. We decided to split these three, and they were all very enjoyable. The chicken was a great mix of light and dark meat, the beef was perfectly seasoned and sprinkled with a good amount of dried sumac, and the falafel was crispy but not oily.
The ambiance at Shish Kebab Express is exactly what you might expect of a restaurant with the word express in its name: comfortable and no-frills. It’s a clean, friendly place, with prompt service and a quick turn-around for takeout orders. Where this restaurant really shines is in terms of its food quality on a budget. I left Shish Kebab Express shaking my head in wonderment after my first visit, and already planning my next trip.
Shish Kebab Express
1207 Hertel Ave., Buffalo, 14216
Rachel Fix Dominguez is a proud Buffalo native who loves eating well on a budget and is excited by our region’s expanding culinary options.