Food and Drink

Restaurant review: My Shawarma House forks out big flavor as it expands in Anchorage

I’m often asked how I find new restaurants to review. And while I love to think of myself as a restaurant insider, the truth is, I’m really just a good listener. One of the best things about Anchorage’s food scene is its diners — the serious, and playful, foodies who like to talk about food as much as I do. They are the ultimate word-of-mouth generators — part of an unofficial, pro bono marketing machine. Local restaurants rely on them. And so do I. In other words, I spend a lot of time on Facebook so you don’t have to.

My Shawarma House is the perfect example of this. What started out online as a quiet little hum about a food-counter inside a small halal market became a veritable siren when it moved into its own space next door. And I always pull over for culinary sirens.

Located in a corner of Russian Jack Plaza, My Shawarma House adds to the Anchorage tradition of strip-mall culinary gems. The space has a spacious waiting area for takeout — a brisk business as far as I could observe — and a row of booths for dine-in. I was bringing food home to a hungry family, but the dining area is clean and inviting and there’s something to be said for eating amid the delicious aromas coming from the restaurant’s kitchen.

It’s a small operation and when I was there, it appeared to be a one-woman show. Hodan Mohamud, one of its founders, appears to be one of Anchorage’s hardest-working chefs. She was turning out wraps by the dozen, hustling to-go orders out the door, and patiently answering questions from first-time customers. All while smiling.

In addition to shawarma wraps and plates, the menu offers curries, injera, spaghetti and rice plates. “Coming soon” tags on the menu extend the pending promise of kebabs, seafood curries, a kid’s menu, and family meals. But I was here for the restaurant’s namesake. I ordered chicken ($11), beef ($12) and lamb ($13) shawarma wraps and added a few beef sambusas ($2.50 each) for good measure — and because they looked so, so good.

Because the kitchen is small, the food can take time, so call ahead or bring a relaxed attitude. Meanwhile, you can use the wait to explore the halal market adjoining the dining room. Here you will discover that you have been paying too much for spices in the big box stores and also that there are many more kinds of tahini than you knew. By the time I’d purchased a jar and investigated some new-to-me cooking implements, my order was up.

The drive home was an exercise in willpower. Not only was the fragrance alluring but the wraps were cleverly packaged — and we all know that I’m a stickler for packaging — rolled tightly in paper and foil and then tucked into a cardboard sleeve. Well-designed, in other words, for in-car noshing. But I resisted the temptation. I am very brave.


The sambusas were the perfect starter. Densely packed with flavorful ground beef, and seasoned with cumin, coriander and chili, these have just the right amount of spice, with a slow heat that tingles on your tongue as a parting gift. Which is good. Because you want all of your tastebuds intact for the shawarma wraps.

We loved all three varieties. The marinated meats are roasted on a rotisserie spit and then thinly sliced, techniques that showcase the developed flavors of slow cooking. My personal favorite was the lamb with its earthy, subtle sweetness. That said, these sandwiches are so well-balanced and constructed that every ingredient is a supporting actor with equal billing. The wrap itself is a perfect ensemble.

The generous portion of shaved meat is wrapped in a golden flaky naan along with onion, lettuce, peppers and thinly sliced pickles — these, for me, are the magic ingredient and reminded me of Falafel King, RIP. The vegetables and condiments lend briny pop to the smokey meat but what brings it all together is the white shawarma sauce — a garlicky, yogurt-based sauce that is the sweet spot between comforting creaminess and bold tang.

Restaurants like My Shawarma House are the reason why I love my job. Watching a new restaurant find its feet while the community lifts it up is a great feeling. It makes the world feel a little smaller and the city feel a little warmer.

If you go:

My Shawarma House

6311 DeBarr Road, Suite M/N


Open daily: 10 a.m.-9 p.m.



[Review: Rafelitos is a welcome addition to the Anchorage food scene]

[Alaska chefs, establishments and restaurateur named James Beard Award semifinalists]

Mara Severin | Eating out

Mara Severin is a food writer who writes about restaurants in Southcentral Alaska. Want to respond to a column or suggest a restaurant for review? Reach her at