the food guy

The Food Guy: Hello Shawarma

NBC Universal, Inc.

Driving down Harlem Avenue south of the Stevenson Expressway offers dozens of delicious eating options.

NBC Chicago's Food Guy Steve Dolinsky passed through Bridgeview recently, when he stumbled upon a tiny strip mall, with some of the best shawarma around.

The vertical spits are clearly the stars at Hello Shawarma, wedged between a Hello Hookah and a Hello Thai in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it mall along south Harlem Avenue. You choose from lamb, beef or chicken, sliced fresh. Then, either stuffed into pitas or stacked into sandwiches or rolled up in thin, lavash-like wraps.

“The most popular one is the wrap, which is called in the language of Arabic the Shrak, and it’s the most traditional bread we make here,” said co-owner Mahmmod Abunijmeh.

Customization is the rule. You can add the garlic sauce, pickles or lettuce, or just let them decide.

“And we put on the chicken garlic sauce and pickles, on the beef and lamb. We put parsley, onions, tomatoes and the tahini sauce,” he said.

One nice touch is fresh olive and pickle bar, featuring crunchy carrots, cauliflower and other pickled veg. Cooks will either slice the shawarma old school, with a thin, long serrated knife, or if it’s busy, they’ll pull out the electric shavers, which do the trick nicely.

Among sandwiches, the special is a combo situation, where you choose your shawarma – maybe even opt for a bit of chicken and lamb – doused in a bit of heavy cream for richness, then piled between their puffy, sesame-studded bread.

“The round sesame bread, which is our signature, it’s called the Bashka. We put bell peppers, mushrooms, corn, olives and it’s on the grill, with your preference of American cheese or pepperjack cheese,” he said.

The sandwich is griddled in a panini press, just until the outside is warm and slightly crisp. It’s a two-handed affair, for sure.

As for their commitment to shawarma, Abunijmeh said in an area where there are dozens of options, they don’t think twice about spending the time on the labor to hand-stack their cones each day.

“The best thing to do is to stack everything fresh, daily. Not frozen from other companies,” said Abunijmeh.

The brothers have big plans, hoping to expand their concept this year. In the meantime, they’re focused on Hello Thai next door, which will bring the same level of commitment to making dishes from scratch.

Here's where you can go:

Hello Shawarma

10272 S. Harlem Ave., Bridgeview


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