I have a friend Joe, and one of the things he and I enjoy doing together is taking long walks around Geneva where we discuss solutions to the world’s problems and then reward ourselves by enjoying a meal featuring Geneva’s fast food staple: a shawarma sandwich. Shawarma/Kebob is Geneva’s most popular fast food. Seemingly every block has one or two shawarma joints, so Joe and I had the idea that it would be fun to try a different one every time and then I’d write this review and anoint one of our lunch destinations as the “best shawarma joint in Geneva”.
Joe is the perfect friend to collaborate on this effort because he’s probably the best cook I know. When we weren’t solving the world’s problems, Joe and I would often find ourselves comparing recent recipes we had tried. I fancy myself a pretty good cook (eating out is too expensive in Geneva so if you want to eat well without going broke, you better learn to cook a little bit…) but Joe is in a different league than me. He makes meals using ingredients I’ve never heard of. This makes Joe the perfect partner to critique Geneva’s shawarma.
Here we are on our way into one of the shawarma joints after a nice long walk in the city.
After our first or second outing, we developed the following criteria for evaluating the quality of the product. (I will note that every shawarma sandwich in town, without exception, costs 10 Swiss francs, the equivalent of 10 U.S. dollars.)
- The bread: I prefer a crispier, thinner wrap, Joe was more amenable to a lighter, softer wrap.
- The meat: Joe and I both preferred lamb over chicken, but the meat must be individual slices skewered on a rod to form the large cylindrical stack from which the meat is carved from the outside in as it cooks. No “pre-packed” stacks are acceptable.
- The sauce: Traditional Lebanese sauces are the red spicy sauce and/or the white yogurt based sauce.
- Vegetables: Typically the vegetables are tomatoes, onions, and lettuce. I always got the works. Joe holds the onions.
- The service and authenticity of the restaurant “vibe”.
We probably visited a dozen shawarma joints. We’ll start with the “also-rans”, which I will not identify by name because shawarma quality is in the eye (mouth?) of the beholder, and far be it for us to call out by name those shawarma joints that didn’t meet our particular tastes. Someone else would have a different view, and we are not the final arbiter of what constitutes good shawarma.
So here we are at a place near the tram stop “Jonction”. I was initially introduced to this shawarma shop by my friends Philippe and Linda since it’s close to their ice cream shop. These sandwiches were good. Good meat, good bread, good vegetables, but their sauce was mayonnaise-based, taking it out of the running for the best shawarma in town.
Here we are enjoying shawarma at a place near the downtown train station Gare Cornavin. This shawarma was also very good, but Joe and I both prefer a bread wrap that is toasted a little bit so that it has a little flakier texture to it. These wraps were cool, which took this restaurant out of the running.
Here we are at another spot near the Gare Cornavin, located on a block where you can’t swing a cat without hitting a Lebanese restaurant. As you can clearly tell by Joe’s morose expression, we weren’t overly impressed with this shawarma. I wasn’t a fan of the bread, which struck me as too similar to an english muffin, and Joe had issues with the quality and variety of the vegetables.
Now, on to the award podium:
Our 2nd runner up: Kapris Café Restaurant Kebab Cagdas, on the Route de Meyrin. Located kitty corner from one of Geneva’s McDonalds and next door to a Dominoes pizza, this authentic Lebanese restaurant serves up a shawarma sandwich that checks all the boxes: great meat, great bread, good sauce. They also provide a good helping of french fries, which we enjoyed at all our stops.
Our 1st runner up: Parfums de Beyrouth. Once again, this meal had everything we were looking for in a shawarma sandwich: the quality of the meat was outstanding, the wrap lightly toasted and the red sauce had the perfect spiciness. But what really stands out about Parfums de Beyrouth is that it has the most authentic Lebanese vibe of any restaurant we tried. We’ve eaten here on multiple occasions, and it’s always crowded (which is a good thing) and many of the clientele appear to be of middle eastern descent, who ought to know a good Lebanese restaurant when they see one.
… And the winner of the “Best Shawarma Joint in Town” goes to: Saveurs d’Orient! Full disclosure on this choice: this restaurant is located just a short walk from my apartment, and became my go-to dinner option when I wasn’t up to cooking. I became something of a “regular” and the store’s proprietor, Husseyn, would always greet me when I entered his shop, ask me how I was doing (“Ca va?”) and then offer me a free beer while I waited for him to prepare my sandwich. Then he would proceed to shave off a very generous helping of lamb, open up a healthy size toasted pita and spread in a spicy red sauce, a load of meat, all the vegetables, more meat, and a drizzle of the white yogurt sauce. I’m pretty sure he’d make my sandwich especially large, since I was a regular. On my visit with Joe, we both appreciated the great service and the quality of the ingredients.
So there you have it, the definitive review of shawarma joints in Geneva, from amateur food critics, Joe and me. Next time you’re in Geneva, skip the McDonald’s and the Dominoes and head to one of these authentic Lebanese eateries.