Foreigners usually think Beirut is crawling with Shawarma joints. In fact, they think it’s the “it” type of fast food. I, like most Lebanese people, know that is far from true. In fact, I’d bet hotdog stands outnumber shawarma gyros twofold. My friend Dani who wrote This is Beirut and now runs This is Trinidad recently reminded of this misconception, which made me think when was the last time I ate a shawarma sandwich: Boubouffe.
This place is ancient and goes back to 1977 when the Lebanese Civil Was was at its toughest. When you go in, it doesn’t feel like a gyro kiosk, it feels more like a gourmet restaurant where a maitre d’ greets you warmly and helps you find a table or place our order to-go. There are also bar stools and out-of-the-way tables which I assume serve the other items on the menu, which include a variety of Lebanese dishes and plat-du-jours. I’d reckon though that their business is mainly reliant on to-go or delivery shawarma sandwiches.
The gyro itself is also different, with actual wood supplying the fire, not the usual gas-powered orange gauze. I thought this was sorta cool and gave some authenticity to the place, versus the usual hospital-appliance-like gyros which you see on sidewalks sometimes.
The shawarma chef is a nice old man Lebanese man with an obvious passion and knowledge of the trade, versus cheaply hired seasonal workers that botch your orders and make it hard to fit the shawarma sandwich into a human mouth.
However, the prices are extremely high. A chicken or beef shawarma sandwich the size of your palm is for 8,000LBP (5.33USD). This is an extreme hike in prices and if I’m not mistaken, a couple of years ago it was just 5,000LBP.
In other words, Boubouffe is a bit expensive for a fast dinner on the go. However, if you have that clueless American friend who thinks we live off shawarma, why not drop by there and show them how shawarma is supposed to look and taste like? Also, I know lots of Lebanese people never eat shawarma anymore, so if you ever crave a “shawarma djeij” without three days of diarrhea, I’d recommend you pass by for a sandwich or two.
Verdict: A nice example of how Shawarma gyros should be.
Price: 6-15 USD should be enough for the average human, and that’s a bit expensive!
Atmosphere: Cozy, out-of-the-way venue (behind Spinneys Ashrafieh)
Staff: Very nice and courteous