02/13/13 10:23am

In Search of the Shawafel in Forest Hills

Not quite a shawafel, but still a great sandwich.

Not quite a shawafel, but still a great sandwich.


Those who know me well know that I hardly ever cook at home. This is not so much the result sloth as it is the fruit of an unquenchable desire for discovery coupled with the unrealistic expectation that every morsel of food I ingest must be a peak gastronomic experience. I do know how to cook, after a fashion, though. I’ve even burned myself in restaurant kitchens and almost burned down a restaurant kitchen while trying my hand at working the line.

From the moment I put a slice of bologna in an apple as a kid I’ve had a creative culinary streak. My finest creation to date is the shawafel. It occurred to me while eating at the now defunct On the Grill. The Israeli spot had both great falafel, and great chicken shawarma, carved from a gigantic tower of meat as all great shawarma should be.  So it was only natural for a creative genius of my caliber to suggest that the cook take some chicken shawarma and bread it in falafel batter. Thus was born the the shawafel sandwich.  I have not had one since On the Grill closed several years ago.

“Yeah we make a shawafel,” my buddy who works at Wafa’s, the homey Lebanese restaurant in Forest Hills. I couldn’t help think that they’d stolen the idea for my signature sandwich creation. So the other day I stopped by to have a lamb shawafel for lunch. “Oh, that’s what you are calling it now?” the owner asked when I ordered the off-menu specialty by name.

The long tightly wrapped sandwich looked like any other oversized hungry-man falafel sandwich. For a moment I thought they left the lamb out. Then I realized that what my buddy called a shawafel was in fact a shawarma-falafel combo sandwich. And a darn good one at that, dressed with house made pickles, onions and lettuce. I am not the biggest fan of Wafa’s lamb shawarma, but in a combo ($12.50) it was absolutely delicious. And, I am somewhat embarrassed to admit, way better than the shawafel I created.

Wafa’s,  100-05 Metropolitan Ave., Forest Hills, 718-880-2055

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