I often drive by restaurants and think, “That place looks legit — I should try it.” Curiosity typically gets me there within weeks, but it takes quite a bit longer if I don’t drive that stretch often. Case in point: Fattoush Café. When I finally stopped into the small Mediterranean restaurant near the “neighborhood” we’re now incorrectly calling the North Gulch, I realized I’ve been driving by and saying that for 15 years. As a food writer, that’s embarrassing. As a shawarma lover, it’s just sad. It means I’ve been missing out on chef-owner Mike Abraham’s succulent, salty, seriously spiced shawarma for a decade-and-a-half. And that stops now. 

Behind the counter of the Charlotte Avenue shop, slowly turning spits spin marinated chicken, beef shawarma (spice-marinated filet mignon) and gyro (lamb-and-beef), which are sliced to order — piping hot — onto golden turmeric rice or roasted potatoes. All the meats are aggressively seasoned, and while some may read that as salty, I read it as complex and complete. Nothing sucks more than lackluster, underseasoned Mediterranean food, and the hyper-savory aspects at Fattoush are easily balanced by the fresh tomatoes, cucumbers and drizzle of zesty house-made tzatziki that tops your platter. Add to that the ethereal pita — fluffy, chewy, sure to obliterate store-bought versions for you forever — and the fact that you’re getting three pounds of food for $11. We typically try to keep our Cheap Eats entries to $10 or less, but the extra buck for this massive plate of food is worth it. There’s little doubt: Fattoush Café should be your go-to for cheap eats (and more) for 2020.

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