Take-out Find: Shababi serves authentic Palestinian plates in Alexandria


Set up a “neighborhood drop” for hearty Palestinian food

Chef and owner of Shababi, Marcelle Afram, tying a chicken (Photo by Kelli Goel)

ALEXANDRIA, VA – Yalla Shababi… is a call to your people! Get your friends and family together for a Palestinian festival.

Chef and founder Marcelle Afram brings a small piece of Palestine to Alexandria with his delivery restaurant Shababi on 5655 General Washington Drive.

Lightning struck when Afram came up with the idea for the Shababi chicken concept in October, left his position as head chef at Michelin-starred Maydan, and set up a fully functional take-away business with business partner Roro Asmar in less than four weeks.

This zero-waste kitchen, which opened in January 2021, is operated on the premises of Asmar Deli. Shababi started with Afram and Asmar doing everything from cooking, menu creation, marketing and website design. Now Afram’s wife and 18-year-old son are an integral part of it all.

A full shababi spread (Image credit: Farrah Skeiky)
A full shababi spread (Image credit: Farrah Skeiky)

What to eat

The incredible food starts with the staple musakhan, which is considered the national dish of Palestine. The rotisserie-style chicken was cured for 24 hours and coated with allspice, sumac, cumin, fenugreek and cardamom, creating a tender meat with a crispy outside that exudes a wonderful aroma.

The chicken is served with taboon, a flatbread that is coated with pureed caramelized onions, cashews and parsley. The dish is served with dips like hummus and mazerea sauce (which tastes a bit like ranch dressing). The meal also comes with a cucumber garnish that has been marinated in Aleppo pepper and garlic oil. There are other great side dishes, such as crispy Za’atar fries and my personal favorite “French onion” Labneh.

Shababi operates outside of business hours at this commercial deli on General Washington Drive in Alexandria.  (Photo: Google Maps)
Shababi operates outside of business hours in the Asmar Deli building on General Washington Drive in Alexandria. (Photo: Google Maps)

How Palestine inspired the cook

“For me, Shababi is my view of food and the opportunity to bring this idea closer to people who have never eaten it before, and also to those who thirst for it and have the nostalgia for it. It’s Palestinian inspired, ”says Afram.

Growing up in Silver Spring, Afram’s Palestinian paternal grandfather was part of his upbringing and it was he who instilled this love for their culture and roots. Afram said he was obsessed and captivated by his stories and anecdotes about Arab and Assyrian ethnicities behind the family and that there is just so much to learn and there is no internet. They say “doing this meal for me is a complaint”. Growing up, his parents were very busy running mom and pop restaurants, which Afram started working at when he was 10.

Proud of representation

Afram had just come out after his transition a few months ago and found his hold and just wanted the circle to come full circle. He says, “I just haven’t seen enough language or spoken about the Palestinian cause, and I just didn’t feel like there was enough representation, and I think for me it was what I identified with most and that I connected my roots with and I didn’t publish that and I felt guilty about it. “

He generally knew that food was his passion in life, but advocacy is his goal. “I had a turbulent life and food was my salvation, but I knew that I had never seen anyone like me. Whether non-binary, transmasculine, Palestinian, Arabic or Syrian, there is simply a lack of visibility for people in general, ”said Afram. Having his own business like ShababI, enables him to bring awareness and advocacy for many causes.

Hand back

In the past few months, Shababi has raised nearly $ 4,000 in direct money with the help of customers for the UNRWA USA which helps to support the neediest Palestinians. In June Shababi will support a local LGBTQ-led organization, Casa Ruby, a multicultural, bilingual, secure LGBTQ space that provides food, shelter, and numerous other health-related services in the Washington DC area. A donation button option for Casa Ruby is on Shababi’s order page until June.

Several members of a large Lebanese-Irish-American family heard about Shababi and wanted to encourage and support it as much as they could, so they opened a convenience store and enjoyed a picnic together.  (Image credit: mare Zogby)
Several members of a large Lebanese-Irish-American family heard about Shababi and wanted to encourage and support it as much as they could, so they opened a local store and enjoyed a picnic together. (Image credit: mare Zogby)

Neighborhood drop

Something newer that Shabibi has started is Neighborhood drop. Shababi delivers to a pick-up location (baseball field, pool, park, etc.) with a minimum order quantity of five, saving you a delivery fee. Just call 571-303-9651 or send an email to [email protected] and mention your interest in a Neighborhood drop and they will set it up for you. Collect your orders as they fill up quickly.

Place your individual orders below sababichicken.com. Pre-orders are currently going live via the app every Monday at 3 p.m. toast, and In most cases you have to place your order the evening before. Shababi is open Thursday through Sunday for takeaway or delivery within 5 miles. You choose the pick-up times on Thursdays and Fridays from 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Collection on Saturday is between 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. and on Sunday between 3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. pm

Call your people together (Yalla Shababi) and experience the wonderful flavors and tastes of Palestinian food.

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