The Canal District, easily Worcester’s most actively developing area, is a great place to grab a coffee, a cocktail, watch a game, go on a date, go shopping, or just take a walk. On this weekends Sunday scroll I found myself getting hungry but craving something more satisfying than the typical burger or pizza that I usually go for. I stumbled into a real hidden Levantine gem that’s been in the heart of the Canal District before it was even cool, Baystate Shawarma.

Levantine cuisine is the traditional cuisine of the Levant, which covers a large area of the Eastern Mediterranean. Popular dishes include hummus and falafel, but there’s so much more that this cuisine, and Baystate Shawarma, has to offer. Step out of your comfort zone and fall in love with Manakeesh, a pizza-like flatbread garnished with minced meat, or Baba Ghanoush, a dip made from baked, mashed eggplant mixed with lemon, garlic, olive oil.

Chicken Shawarma Dinner Plate from Bay State on Water Street in Worcester, MAAnd an absolute legend, Shawarma. Shawarma, an Arabic word for “turning,” is a Levantine meat preparation, typically done with chicken, beef and lamb. It’s known to the Lebanese as an Arabic “fast food” although by no means can it be prepared fast.

Baystate Shawarma knows that the secret to great shawarma is marinating it properly. The perfect shawarma will be marinated and grilled on a spit for at least one day, preferably two, and can be served on a plate or as a pita wrap with fresh vegetables and Tahini. I think we can all agree we’d rather grab some shawarma on the go rather than making that dreaded pit stop at McDonalds for what we as Americans call “fast food.”

Let’s not get shawarma confused with gyros. Although very similar and both delicious, the main difference is that there is a lot more flexibility around cooking shawarma. A gyro will most always be lamb, tomato, onion and tzatziki served on a pita, while shawarma’s can come with all different types of meat, veggies, spices, sauces, and sometimes even French fries. The options are endless!

If you’re looking for authentic shawarma in the Worcester area you won’t regret popping into Baystate Shawarma. Located at 96 Water Street, this Middle Eastern gem offers a casual dining area, market and bakery and is open 7 days a week. Rated 4 stars on Yelp with almost 100 reviews, you can’t go wrong with one of their made-to-order shawarma plates. The chicken shawarma plate (only $7.99) includes chicken, rice, salad, pickles, radishes, a scoop of hummus and toum (garlic sauce), and pita, and can easily be split into 2 full meals. The chicken was moist, the rice was fluffy and the salad was zesty and fresh. Looking for something vegetarian? Grape leaves and Fatoush are both great options that are less than $5 each.

Whether you’re Middle Eastern or not, it’s hard not to fall in love with the made-to-order cuisine this Canal District staple offers.

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