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Manager Ariel Daniel holds the chicken breast plate with seasonal vegetables (left). Staff work on an assembly line. Photo By: David Laurence
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Shawarma on a pita comes with house-made potato chips; hand-carved chicken is the base for the wrap. Photo By: David Laurence
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ME VA ME (240 Queen West, at John, 416-546-3770, mevamekitchenexpress.ca, @lovemevame) Complete meals for $18 per person, including tax, tip and a soda. Average main $10. Open daily 11 am to 11 pm. Closed some holidays. No reservations. Unlicensed. Access: three steps at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN
Tabbouleh or not tabbouleh?
The veggie-friendly cuisine of the Middle East isn't the next big thing - it already is huge. Look no further than the launches of Byblos on Duncan, District Oven on College and ex-Drake chef Anthony Rose's super-hot Fat Pasha on Dupont for proof.
Me Va Me in the old Beverley Tavern is the latest to enter the fray. Launched in Thornhill by Albert Nachomov 14 years ago, the MVM mini-chain aims for the middle of the road with a fast food-style menu that hits more often than it misses.
You can't go wrong with flaky pizza-sized laffa flatbread straight from the oven spread with creamy chickpea hummus and eggplant baba ghanouj. Wrap it around the likes of breaded chicken schnitzel, minced lamb kebabs (both $8.95) or - our favourite - the Jerusalem mix, aka grilled liver, thigh and heart of chicken ($7.95), before dressing them with red cabbage slaw, diced tomato and Spanish onion. Don't forget the squirts of tahini, tzatziki and hot sauce. And you'll definitely want a side of fried-to-order potato chips ($1.25).
The proteins are also available as "box" dinners - served on a plate if you eat on site. Tastiest is the grilled salmon ($16.95), less so the dreadfully under-spiced falafel ($9.45). All come with a choice of salad - go for the house greens with beets and carrots in lemony vinaigrette - and side, the grilled peppers and green beans a far superior option to refined white basmati rice or prefab frozen fries.
You can buy just about all of the components separately to go as well. Grab a half dozen laffa ($1.45 each), a 16-ounce tub of hummus and another of spicy matbucha tomato 'n' peppers (both $7.45), some labneh yogurt-cheese balls dusted with za'atar ($4.95 for five) and a pound of chicken shawarma ($14.95) sliced from the spit and you've got yourself an instant party!