Shawarma Guyz, 1050 Country Club Dr, Ste 100, Mansfield. 682-400-8111. 12-6pm Sun, 11am-9pm Mon-Sat. All major credit cards accepted.
While gyro restaurants may not be uncommon in Tarrant County, it’s unusual to find someone basing an eatery around the gyro’s slightly less familiar cousin, shawarma. Enter Shawarma Guyz, a relatively new eatery tucked into the back of a shopping center in Mansfield. The main difference between shawarma and gyro is the meat: As the cuisine of the Middle East moved through Greece, the beef or chicken used in shawarma was substituted for lamb, the unambiguously un-halal pork, or a mixture of beef and lamb. But the cooking style and condiments remain almost identical.
When I dined there recently, I guess my indecision was obvious. As I was contemplating one of the two soup offerings for a starter, the kind server (who doubled as the hostess) brought out little ramekins of both the lentil and tomato basil soups to sample. The curry-yellow soup was not bad, but the vibrant orange tomato basil was far better. You could smell the aroma about five yards away. The balance of the sweet basil and tangy tomato combined in the creamy soup was perfect, and there wasn’t any acidic aftertaste.
Shawarma is essentially barbecue rotating on a vertical stick instead of lying flat on a grill. The process is similar to cooking gyros, but the seasonings differ. At Shawarma Guyz, diners have a choice of beef, chicken, or turkey. The beef shawarma was bathed in warm spices from Lebanon: cinnamon, maybe some cardamom, cumin, and oregano or thyme. The texture of the beef by itself was problematic: Some bites were fairly soft, and some were downright chewy. The shawarma was good wrapped in a fairly standard pita that was not house-made, but the saffron rice that came with the entrée was distressingly bland, as was the accompanying squash-zucchini-onion grilled veggie mix. Since the plates come with a side, I’d suggest skipping the rice for the rich, luscious goodness of the baba ganoush. Every Levantine kitchen makes the pureed eggplant dip differently. Here, the texture is still really chunky, and there’s a strong smoky flavor augmented by a sprinkling of flaming hot fancy paprika on the top.
I love a good gyro sandwich, and Shawarma Guyz didn’t disappoint. There was plenty of crispy sliced gyro meat smothered in what they call cucumber and yogurt sauce (the Guyz version of tzatziki sauce) along with grilled onions, tasty Lebanese pickles, and lettuce. The meat by itself was extremely salty, but when it was wrapped in the gloriously caramelized, grill-marked pita wrap, it tasted fine. More cucumber sauce would have been nice but not absolutely necessary.
The vegetarian falafel plate turned out to be the best entrée of the meal. Six slightly lemony, ping pong ball-sized falafel balls sat atop portions of hummus, tabouli, the delicious baba ganoush and a Greek salad. The falafel was crisp without being dry, and it stood up to sitting on the moist sides without becoming gummy. Even the next day, the chick pea/bean rounds were still crunchy and didn’t need the tahini dressing for extra flavor. The hummus tasted almost exactly like the tahini – there was none of the lemony taste that marks the Greek version, and it wasn’t even garlicky. The only pop of flavor came from more of the spicy paprika that also garnished the baba ganoush. The Greek salad was a blend of chopped lettuce, green and red peppers, onions, and a simple vinaigrette dressing – no feta cheese in the mix. Tabouli is mostly a palate cleanser. I don’t know anyone who loves the stuff, and a few bites didn’t really change my mind.
For dessert, diners have a choice of knafeh (a cheese pastry soaked in syrup) or baklava, along with the decidedly nontraditional carrot or chocolate cake. Two triangles of almost excessively rich, flaky baklava sprinkled with pistachios and heavy with honey syrup and chopped walnuts did the trick to end the meal pleasantly.
At Shawarma Guyz, every word that should end with an “s” ends in a “z” – soupz, sidez, and even dessertz. If you can get past the shtick, the food’s pretty good, and the portion sizes are extremely generous.
Tomato soup $4.99
Gyro wrap $8.99
Beef shawarma plate $12.99
Falafel plate $11.99