This post originally appeared on the abortive KREIS5.NET blog.
Some (probably less-addled) folks like to compare the prices of a liter/gallon of milk as a framework for bitching about inflation or where to live more cheaply. I, on the other hand, have long used the esteemed Döner Kebap as a marker of relative food cost between different cities. For example, when I was a student in Berlin, I think a kebap cost about €2.10, which was under US$2 at the time – both the exchange rate and the cost relative to other cities made it a quite excellent place to be a student. Austria, if I recall, was only a bit pricier at around €3 (and infinitely more delicious, so much so that I wrote an article about Graz kebaps from memory on my old blog).
So I’m super glad I wasn’t a student in Switzerland, because the crash of the dollar has left the 8 franc döner almost absurdly expensive for what it’s worth. And they don’t even cut you fresh meat here, preferring to let it marinate/dry out in some sort of steam table. It’s just nasty! (Don’t even get me started on the bread…)
However, I am easily seduced by quality even at those prices, and that’s why I’m so happy to have found Libanon il-Achdar on Hafnerstrasse. Instead of the usual generic döner mystery substance, these guys have substituted a nearly unparalleled range of meats: rosto, a kind of roast beef; kafta, herbed ground beef; sujuk, the Lebanese lamb sausage similar to merguez; and several kinds of chicken: one that’s mixed with veggies, one that’s not, and one that actually gets cut off a proper spit right into your pita bread – that’s right, boys and girls, an actual schawarma!
The delight doesn’t stop with meat selection. Unless you get the chicken-on-a-spit, your meat will need to be thrown on the grill. So, while that’s happening, you will be asked to pick your secondary ingredients. I suppose you could be picky, but I have always entrusted the counter staff to put on “alles,” and I have not been disappointed. You’ll always get pickles, cabbage, onions, and, to my great delight, french fries – your lubrication (ie the spread applied to the pita) will change depending on the meat (with the lamb it usually seems to be mayonnaise, but I think when I ordered beef, they used hummus or babaganouj).
While the lamb is advertised as spicy, it’s not terribly hot. If you want a bit more heat, ask for it – while there isn’t any particularly unique hot sauce to try, the Sriracha hot sauce sauce goes surprisingly well into the mix with almost any meat, and may remind you of banh mi gone by (if only we had some Vietnamese sandwiches here).
I would gladly pay 8 francs for one of the many variations of this delicious sandwich. However, you don’t have to. The price for any meat sandwich at Libanon il-Achdar is
CHF7. CHF7!!!! now CHF8 (but still). Oh, happy day.
So next time you are pondering waiting in line for a crappy kebap with the snotty Swiss teenage boys on lunch break, steer yourself instead to Libanon il-Achdar. There will probably be a line there, too, but you can be assured that the wait is actually worth it.