Brett Blume

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) –  Near the tail end of the super-mega-blockbuster “The Avengers” ($207 million/opening weekend), after the big battle is over, Tony Stark (Iron Man) looks at Captain America and says “Have you ever tried shawarma? I don’t know what it is, but I want to try it.”

And millions of movie-goers went “Huh? What the heck is shawarma?”

“Shawarma is a very traditional, authentic Middle Eastern food,” explains Ali Mohsen, manager at The Vine: Mediterranean Cafe and Market, 3171 S. Grand in Tower Grove South. “It’s a staple, almost like a street food. People could walk up just like a hotdog stand.”

To simplify, he adds, shawarma is to his native Lebanon as a gyro is to Greece.

Shawarma is made of big chunks of real chicken breast that’s been marinated for at least 24 hours, placed on a skewer, then cooked and sliced off a large spit.

Lamb and beef can also make up the main ingredient of a shawarma, which can be its own meal served over rice, placed into a pita or made into a sandwich.

The Vine adds one extra step when preparing its shawarma.

“We’re the only Halal-certified Lebanese restaurant in St. Louis,” he tells KMOX News, likening it to Jewish food that’s certified as kosher.

How do you know the restaurant you’re eating in isn’t Halal-certified?

They’re also serving alcohol.

As for the boost provided by that scene in “The Avengers”, Mohsen says they’re definitely experiencing a shawarma bump from curious movie-goers.

“It’s picking up…people know it more, people ask about it more,” Mohsen says.

In case you’re one of the half-dozen or so people who haven’t seen “The Avengers” yet (spoiler alert!), a scene tacked on at the very end of the credits shows the entire superhero team gathered around a table at the shawarma restaurant mentioned by Tony Stark, silently downing the Middle Eastern delicacy.


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