Baraat Khudier serves up some shawerma at the restaurant she co-owns with her husband. They opened just last month. - Nick Lachance Photography Manager

Home away from home

Baraat Khudier serves up some shawerma at the restaurant she co-owns with her husband. They opened just last month. – Nick Lachance Photography Manager

Shawerma Plus brings homestyle Syrian cooking to Waterloo

Amy Greif

Tucked away in a strip plaza on King Street across from the Wilfrid Laurier University campus is an odd assortment of local businesses.. Apart from Quizno’s, the plaza remains franchise-free, enabling a community of independent restaurants to thrive.

The strip’s newest tenant, Shawerma Plus, serves up authentic Middle Eastern cuisine prepared fresh, in front of your eyes.

“When we designed this, we designed it open concept for the customer to see, smell; why should it be hidden?” said co-owner Baraat Khudeir. She owns the business along with her husband, Asem.

Originally from Syria, the husband and wife team behind the restaurant moved to Kitchener after their son was accepted to the University of Waterloo one year ago.
Asem was an instructor at a Syrian university prior to immigrating to Canada six years ago.

Opening their doors for the first time on Oct. 1, Shawerma Plus has already become popular with students, professors and community members alike. The Khudeirs hope to provide a healthier alternative to fast food restaurants.

“Before we opened the restaurant, we made a study for all of the area, we discovered that everywhere here is fast food; no homemade dishes, no healthy food!” said Baraat.

Shawerma Plus offers homemade Mediterranean dishes on Mondays and Thursdays. Everything is prepared in house, and these meals have become so popular that they’re thinking of expanding the homemade menu to other days of the week.

Daily menu items include both chicken and veal shawerma, falafel and a variety of Middle Eastern salads and side dishes. Everything is priced approximately 50 cents lower than their competition in order to further attract customers. One of the only area restaurants serving Turkish coffee, the restaurant lives up to its name of offering more than just shawerma.

The restaurant itself is bright and relatively spacious. With plenty of seating room, including lounge section with couches and a stereo, Shawerma Plus is ideal for both takeout and eating in. A large TV showcases sporting events from around the world, and the owners encourage patrons to linger by offering free Wi-Fi.

As everything is made to order, the food takes a little bit longer to prepare. However, it’s well worth the wait. When a regular customer stopped in to order three falafels, Asem said, “He knows that it takes five to ten minutes. We will not fry until the customer is in. I don’t prepare it and keep it to cool down and heat it up for the customer.”
Providing exemplary service, Baraat was eager to demonstrate how she prepares everything to suit her customers’ tastes. Taking me behind the counter to make the tabouleh, she threw together onions, cucumbers, tomatoes and bulgur. She dressed the salad with high-quality olive oil and lemon juice. Just when I thought she was finished she said, “I ask my customers to taste it. If [you] like more lemon, I put more lemon.”

Shawerma Plus’ commitment to quality food and a friendly environment shines through in everything they do. A grand opening event, held on Nov. 1, brought community members out to taste a buffet of their food. Baraat and Asem mingled with guests and served up fresh shawerma pitas table-side. It’s a testament to the family-like community they’re trying to create in the midst of a strip-mall right beside Wilfrid Laurier.

Shawerma Plus is located at 220 King St., N., it’s open: Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight, Friday-Saturday 11 a.m. to 3 a.m.