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Why I'm Thankful for Bilad Bakery

The chicken shawarma on samoon bread for $5.49EXPAND
The chicken shawarma on samoon bread for $5.49
Nick Rallo
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The correct answer to the question is “yes.”

The question, on a recent visit, involved the only words spoken between customer and employee — even during checkout — because there was nothing else needed.

The electric knife buzzed off a layer of shawarma. A grid of the crackly chicken, charred orange from its rotations alongside heat, slid into the samoon bread.

That made-in-house flat bread, pointy at the ends and wide in the middle, always, always has a crusty outer layer and soft inside like a cloud that’s been seared on the griddle. Garlic sauce, pickles, chopped herbs, tomatoes and onions get loaded up in the bread along with the shawarma.

Then, the question: “Spicy?” Of course, spicy! Always spicy at Bilad Restaurant and Bakery.

In one quick swoop, they slashed the chicken with a dark red, smoky-hot sauce. The entire sandwich went in the panini press, encrusting the edges of the bread. After a couple of minutes getting toasty, it was sliced in half and dropped in a bag.

No other words were spoken, and, honestly, in this dangerous time of airborne transmission, that's the best-case-scenario for a takeout meal. This, along with their kaleidoscope of flavors, is why I’m thankful for Richardson’s Bilad Bakery.

Skip the double lines at Chick-Fil-A or Popeyes or the golden arches this time: Bilad’s shawarma sandwiches are $5.49, and each is loaded with pickles and heat and sauce. Their hummus is clean and smooth as a bowl of silk.

The room is steamy with rotisserie heat and family cooking — this is a neighborhood bakery doing all of the good things.

The sauces are immensely garlicky and tangy, an excellent pairing for their bright vegetables. You’ll want to car snack on the warm, baked flatbread, dusted heavily with the crackle-crunch of za'atar seasoning waiting in front of the counter. Another pie’s got a blanket of cheese over the bread: It’s hot and read-ier than any blank fast-food pizza.

During a lunch rush, Bilad blazes through orders. Staff members always have their masks on, and plexiglass barriers do their part to keep particles from flying around. This isn’t the kind of place you’ll hear a curated playlist in the dining room or Edison bulbs warming the ceiling — Bilad’s wonderfully old school. A URL leads you to an expired domain and social media is not at all filled with stunning imagery.

Simply mask-up for pickup, or Grubhub has you covered.

Honest-to-goodness mom-and-pop fast food isn’t easy to find in any city. Yet Dallas is abundant with these gems, many outside the city limits (see the 10 best dishes Observer critic Brian Reinhart had in 2019, for example), and it’s never been more important to support them.

For most local businesses right now, the closest thing to “doing well” means affording to pay your skeletal, overworked and over-exposed staff — or simply, being able to pay the lease this month.

Fast-food giants are doing just fine; our friendly neighborhood restaurants need our appetites so, so much more right now. Remember: Say “yes” to “spicy.”

Bilad Restaurant and Bakery, 850 S. Greenville Ave., Richardson. 972-744-9599.

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