Fuad Al Dawyma buzzes beef shawarma from the spinning grill with an electric shaver. It’s calming to watch.
The meat cone twirls hypnotically, slowly. Dawyma shaves meat off into sheets, into his hand, then packs it into the pockets of soft Iraqi bread. The bread is piping steam into the air like a heat mirage as he lacquers on tahini sauce. Welcome to Bilad Bakery, where every sandwich is good. It's the fast-casual restaurant that asks, "Why not take five sandwiches to go?"
“Spicy?” Dawyma calls out. "Yes" should be everyone’s answer. His ingredients are a gradient of colors, from electric parsley green to chickpea beige, from thunderously bright vegetables to zapped pickles. He stuffs bell peppers and tangy pickles in with the beef. Anything you see behind the counter (like hummus and tabbouleh) is fair game as a topping.
They’re some of the best damn sandwiches you’ll find in the area, and each is less than $6 at Dawyma’s 7-year-old restaurant. It’s joined with a grocery store that’s been in his family since 1978.
Blink and you’ll miss Dawyma’s sandwich construction speed. “Tahini?” He calls out. Ingredient by ingredient, he works down the line of toppings, twists the sandwich into foil and passes it over the counter.
When asked, he places his hand over his heart to reiterate that it’s his family restaurant. He’s beaming with a smile and hands over my sandwich. Everything moves fast. I ask about the delicious dipping sauce that comes with the sandwich. He pours za'atar seasoning into a plastic cup and immerses it with olive oil.
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Any sandwich at Bilad Bakery is served without an ounce of pretension. It’s hot and enveloped in foil, surrounded by a small handful of black olives.
Creamy tahini blankets the rainy crunch of peppers and onions. The Iraqi bread is a delicate and crisp shell surrounding a hot puff of pita-like softness. The sandwich feels and eats light. You won’t slip into a coma at your desk if you order it for lunch. Pro tip: Buy five sandwiches, get one free.
On the way out, I grab two more sandwiches to go. The bread’s soft and fresh, so that’s going in the bag too. You pay up front, fast and pain-free, and the door jangles on your way out. Everything is simple and good.
Bilad Bakery & Restaurant, 850 S. Greenville Ave., Richardson