The owner of the new Shawarma Grill at the Golfside and Washtenaw BP station is twenty years old. Reda Alnahi, who goes by Ray, says he has been working at restaurants in Dearborn since he was seventeen and saw a place in the Ann Arbor market for the kind of cheap, authentic shawarma that he sees near his hometown.
“You guys do have Arabic restaurants in Ann Arbor, but they’re not as good, and the prices are way too high. If you want a shawarma anywhere around [Ann Arbor] it’s like six or seven dollars! I don’t blame them–the rent here is way too high!”
Alnahi’s menu includes traditionally American dishes, but he’s especially proud of his Middle Eastern items: “authentic chicken shawarma is only garlic and pickles. I don’t like it that way, but that’s the authentic way. People like it!” He adds that “you can add whatever you want” to your order (he likes Buffalo sauce and onions in his). His younger brother and two cousins staff the grill.
Alnahi and his family emigrated to America as Iraqi refugees after Alnahi’s father deserted from mandatory service in Saddam Hussein’s army. “If they find you,” says Alnahi of the former Iraqi army, “you’re dead.” Originally settling in Missouri, they moved to Dearborn ten years ago to be closer to their extended family.
Currently, the restaurant is takeout only. A small standing counter is the only spot to eat, but Alnahi hopes to bring in some tables and chairs, and eventually move on to a bigger place. “If it goes well, and we get very busy within the next year or two, I’m hoping to expand … maybe in downtown Ann Arbor.” He’s purposely designed the logo to work for a future franchise. Alnahi also offers free delivery, which he provides himself in a car decorated with Shawarma Grill logos.
Shawarma Grill, 4975 Washtenaw, 221-5620. Mon.-Thurs. 10:30 a.m.- xADmidnight, Fri.-Sun. 10:30 a.m.-2:30 a.m. facebook.com/theshawarmagrill