clock menu more-arrow no yes
Chicken shawarma at Cedarland.

Filed under:

In Search of Chicken Shawarma in Dearborn

Not all wraps are created equal

Welcome to Eater Detroit’s inaugural food crawl, a series in which Eater staffers guide you (virtually) on various food crawls in the metro Detroit area. When we go out, we often find ourselves wanting to try more than one restaurant or bar at a time. On some occasions we seek out a specific dish or drink, while on others we might explore a style of cuisine special to a neighborhood. Email us if there’s a particular theme, specific dish or drink, or neighborhood you’d like to see covered in a future installment.


Shawarma is as Detroit as the coney dog and the square pizza. These filling and frequently garlicky grilled meat sandwiches are abundant across the metro area from gas station food stands to sit-down family restaurants. Perhaps the best-known version is sold at wildly popular local chain Bucharest Grill, which grills its chicken on a flat top rather than sliced from a vertical spit. But the true epicenter for shawarma in metro Detroit has to be Dearborn, where nearly every Middle Eastern restaurant seems to offer its own rendition of the dish. So which spot has the best combination of spit-cooked chicken, garlic sauce, and pickles all packaged in a pita?

Eater Detroit’s editor Brenna Houck, contributor Dorothy Hernandez, and photographers Michelle and Chris Gerard joined up on a recent summer afternoon to crawl along Warren Avenue with a quick trip down Schaefer Road in search of chicken shawarma. Along the journey we tried five different restaurants: Tuhama’s, Station Shawarma, Cedarland, Hamido, and Rafic’s Falafel. We loosely judged meals on the overall size, price, flavors, and textures of the shawarma. Other merits such as speed of service and overall ambiance were considered as part of the judging.

These opinions, of course, are highly subjective — readers should feel free weigh-in in the comments. Worthy attempts were made at each establishment to consume the whole sandwich, though by the end we had to loosen our belts and were grateful for the walk back to the car.

Stats for this food crawl:

Streets traveled upon: 2

Pickle plates: 2 (with an additional set of pickled peppers on the side)

Shawarma consumed: 10

Pops consumed: 4

5 seconds: The approximate amount of time it took to get a shawarma at Station Shawarma

Amount of napkins available at Station Shawarma: 0

Bowls of soup consumed: 4


Stop 1: Tuhama’s

10613 Warren Ave., Dearborn, MI 48126
Cost for Two Sandwiches: $8.50

Chicken shawarma at Tuhama’s in Dearborn sits in a black basket lined with white paper. Michelle and Chris Gerard

Our crawl begins at Tuhama’s, a cozy spot with a walk-up counter and spinning vertical rotisseries in the kitchen. After a brief wait, the shawarma arrive tightly wrapped in white paper with a black plastic basket. The shawarma at Tahuma’s hit a lot of the right notes, from the crisp, tart pickles to the just-right-amount-of-garlic sauce that packs a potent punch by itself. It’s also the ideal ratio of ingredients with a nicely crisped pita that doesn’t disintegrate in your hands. The sandwiches earn high marks for structure. While extremely flavorful, the chicken is a tad dry and could’ve been helped by just a touch more sauce, but overall we’re satisfied and it becomes the standard for comparison for subsequent shawarma on this crawl.

Rating: 3.5 out of 4 shawarma


Stop 2: Station Shawarma

12845 W. Warren Ave., Dearborn, MI 48126
Cost for Two Sandwiches: $9.54

Station Shawarma was not originally on the itinerary for the afternoon, but as it was on the way (and it did, after all, have shawarma in the name), it seemed like a logical stop on this chicken pita sandwich excursion. The restaurant features a larger seating area with a kitchen featuring vertical spits and a walk-up counter. When we place the order, we’re told the wait will be about 5 minutes, but soon as we sit down our order is up. The turnaround time for filling this order was definitely a record for the crawl. Unfortunately, the initial bites of the shawarma were a little bit of a letdown. The pickles aren’t particularly crisp, the chicken is bland, and the sandwich falls apart quickly, just as quickly as we received it. Onward!

Rating: 2 out of 4 shawarma


Stop 3: Cedarland

13007 Warren Ave., Dearborn, MI 48126
Cost for Two Sandwiches: $8.46

Four halves of chicken shawarma wrapped in paper and stacked on a plate next to lentil soup and pickled veggies. Gerard + Belevender

At Cedarland, a dine-in Lebanese restaurant with a drive-thru window, we take a seat at one of the many booths. The diner-esque decor features red wrought iron trim, coved ceilings, and murals of downhill skiers amongst cedar trees. (Lebanon is sometimes referred to as the Switzerland of the East because of its mountain ski resorts filled with cedar trees.) While waiting for our shawarma, our table is treated to a plate of pickled peppers and radishes alongside cups of steaming golden yellow lentil soup. This alone is worth the trip to Cedarland and is a nice respite after having already downed four chicken sandwiches. We’re pleasantly surprised to find that the shawarma at Cedarland deviates slightly from the pickles, garlic sauce, and chicken formula with the addition of diced tomatoes. The tomatoes add a bit of freshness and acidity. The sauce is also thinner than the usual thick paste, so the sandwich is a bit messy to eat. But overall it’s a respectable addition to the shawarma field and an excellent option for people looking for more of a sit-down, family meal.

Rating: 3 out of 4 shawarma


Stop 4: Hamido

13701 W. Warren Ave., Dearborn, MI 48126
Cost for Two Sandwiches: $8.50

Two chicken shawarma, including one sliced in half, on a plate with a pile of pickled veggies in the background. Michelle and Chris Gerard

Amongst all the tasty and tempting options to enjoy at this popular Dearborn restaurant, it might be easy to overlook the shawarma. But don’t sleep on this sandwich. We waited the longest at Hamido compared to the other four spots — perhaps due to the large volume of takeout and dine-in orders. A plate of pickles is provided at the table to tide us over, and the shawarma are well worth the wait. The chicken at Hamido is hot and succulent with a char-grilled flavor. The pickles have just the right amount of tang and salt (but not as crisp as Tuhama’s), and the garlic sauce envelops the chicken perfectly. Could this be the one?

Rating: 4 out of 4 shawarma


Stop 5: Rafic’s Falafel

6905 Schaefer Road, Dearborn, MI 48126
Cost for Two Sandwiches: $8.46

Michelle and Chris Gerard

Now in the home stretch of our crawl, we brace ourselves for one final sandwich. It’s known for falafel, but how is the shawarma at Rafic’s? After some friendly service and a brief wait, our sandwiches are delivered to the table on a plate dressed with a handful of skinny and tart pickled peppers. The pita bread is thin and crisp, almost like a chip, and it holds everything together nicely. The meat is the most tender and juicy out of all of the sandwiches we’ve had on this shawarma sojourn. If we could put this chicken in the first shawarma, we’d have the ultimate shawarma. But alas, it’s time to crown the king of shawarma.

Rating: 3 out of 4 shawarma


The verdict: We close out this crawl feeling heavily weighed down by the 10 chicken shawarma we’ve just consumed. While each of the spots afforded their own special atmosphere and take on the dish, the group ultimately agrees that the title for best shawarma on this tour must go to either Tuhama’s or Hamido. Hamido edges Tuhama’s out because of its flavorful chicken, crisp pickle slices, and sound shawarma architecture. This concludes the shawarma crawl.

All Eater Guides Coverage [ED]

Tuhama's

10613 Warren Avenue, , MI 48126 (313) 581-0714

Rafic's Falafel

6905 Schaefer Road, , MI 48126 (313) 551-5046 Visit Website

Bucharest Grill

436 West Columbia Street, , MI 48201 (313) 965-3111 Visit Website

Hamido

13251 West Warren Avenue, , MI 48126 (313) 582-0660 Visit Website

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Eater Detroit newsletter

The freshest news from the local food world