Man Food: Spicy Chicken Shawarma at Garlic 'n Lemons

If you walk past this unassuming Allston spot, you'll be missing out on a neighborhood treasure.

Welcome to Man Food, where burger pro Richard Chudy steps away from his usual burger beat to explore food challenges, street eats, and other gut-busting delights. Ladies are welcome, of course.

Garlic n' Lemons shawarma Photo by Katie Barszcz for Boston magazine.

At first glance, Garlic ‘n Lemons appears to be as unglamorous as the many other unassuming ethnic eating establishments on the long strip of Harvard Ave. in Allston. But walk right past it and you’ll be missing out on a neighborhood treasure, one I hold in the same esteem as other special spots like Bon Chon, S&I Thai, and Roast Beast.

The cuisine here is Lebanese, with stellar tabbouleh, baba ganoush, and fattoush salad. My go-to on each visit is the spicy chicken shawarma roll-up, a giant, flavor-packed wrap that hits all the right notes. It’s handed over neatly stuffed with the spicy chicken, plus pickled cucumbers, bright pink turnips, tomato, lettuce, sumac-seasoned onions, and a hearty dousing of garlic sauce. You can order it on standard pita bread, but upgrading to saj bread is the right move; it’s a thinner bread with a more hearty, crisp texture than pita, which complements the filling of the sandwich more adequately.

The spicy chicken is carefully shaved off a large rotating spit to order. Oozing with juices, the layers of chicken are impeccably cooked in the center, and have a great char on the outside. The protein-to-vegetable ratio here is just right, and the cooling pickles and potent sumac onions bring just as much flavor to the sandwich as the spiced chicken. While it’s less hot than advertised, an extra hit of spicy yogurt sauce coupled with the garlic sauce binds the elements beautifully. The garlic sauce is arguably the best part of the entire shawarma; it’s a delectable, slightly pungent condiment that the good folks at Garlic ‘n Lemons dole out generously.

Seating is tight, but the mostly take-out service is fast and friendly. Besides, if you’re like me, you’ll have devoured your shawarma before you even get the chance to sit down anyway.

(Garlic ‘n Lemons, 133 Harvard Ave., Allston, 617-783-8100)

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