Revisiting Jordan: the best shawarma in Houston

My family and I lived in the Middle East during the Arab Spring.  Right after the peak intensity, we left for Jordan for a few weeks to cool off and let things resettle.  I took to my usual ways when visiting a new country, which is to take a taxi into town and just start walking.  I found a little Shawarma shop that served some fantastic Shawarma and also found a small local sweets shop down an alley around the corner (if you ever go, its called Habiba--get the Kunaffa).  I would walk down there every day to get my daily dose of happiness.

Enter Abu Omar Halal

On the recommendation of Zain's Halal Reviews, we tried Abu Omar Halal.  When I ate the beef Shawarma, I was transported back to Jordan--I could see the hills of Amman as clearly in my mind as if I was there.  The meat for shawarma cooks on a spit.  Cooks cut the meat off, chop it, mix it with some sauces and other "extras" and then serve it wrapped in bread.  What most people do not understand is that there are several different styles of Shawarma wherein the taste shifts.  I suppose that it is a matter of taste, but I enjoy the Jordanian and Syrian style the best.  The Jordanian style is unique based on the bread.  Jordanian Shawarma has thinner bread (other shawarma is more like a Gyro) and they cook it in a press when it is finished giving it a perfect crisp on the outside.  I have taken the Terabeza crew to the food truck in the Galleria area and had Abu Omar cater a private lunch for a diverse group of friends and in both cases there was consensus: it's the best Shawarma in Houston.

If you ever get the chance to meet the owner, Abu Omar, ask him to tell you about his stolen food truck which was probably converted into a taco truck.  Mohammed (read below for why the shift in name), even though he has spent a significant part of his life here in the states is a very typical Jordanian.  He is funny, gregarious, and entrepreneurial.  His Abu Omar brand took off after a prior failed experiment in the food truck business.  A few years later, Muhammad started the Abu Omar Halal "chain" and they are now up to six locations.  Trust me, if you want one of the most reasonably priced lunches that has fantastic flavor, find their nearest location for your next lunch and you won't be sorry.

Middle Eastern Names 

Middle Eastern naming convention gives the parents the name of their first born son.  Abu means father and Oma means mother.  In place of Mr or Mrs the term "father of" or "mother of" is given in its place.  Thus, Abu Omar is Father of Omar.  In the Middle East, they do not have western style last names.  Instead, each generation receives their own name which becomes the "front" name that is added to their father, grandfather, and great grandfather.  My son would be Jacques Brian Allen Paul.  This caused much confusion in Iraq when Western news sources announced that Hussein was dead, as a significant portion of the Iraqi population was named Hussein.  Hussein was not Saddam's "last name" as is often the reference, but is his father's name.  To further confound the popular naming convention in the Middle East friends give friends and regular acquaintances (e.g. the waiter at their favorite coffee shop) nicknames often based on where they are from, some physical feature or even a fruit.  I knew one man at our local coffee shop (think lawn chairs in the sidewalk of a busy road not Starbucks) only by the town of Assiut where he was from.  My friends called him "Ya Assiuti."  Another man there I only knew by his nickname of watermelon.