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These Kings of Armenian BBQ Sell An Incredible $12 Pork Shawarma Wrap in North Hollywood

This little shack off Sherman Way in North Hollywood is serving some of the best Armenian barbecue you can find, including their popular marinated pork shawarma wrapped in toasty lavash bread, for only twelve dollars.

To the side of a small San Fernando Valley strip mall off Sherman Way, in a small shack with large Armenian lettering, you'll find two golden spits inside, pork roasting as they revolve, and dripping with marinade as the pork fat sweats over their charred ends.

The spit master shaves thick, meaty chunks onto a flat top grill next to them, where he proceeds to sear it more as he slices. He dices the pork shawarma into crunchy bits before wrapping it all in a big piece of lavash, grilling the whole thing slightly in a panini press, and serving this hefty mass of flavor that could easily feed two for only 12 dollars.

Edon Haroutounyan slicing the pork spit
Pork shawarma being chopped on the grill.

The small restaurant has a strong Armenian 'Sopranos' vibe. There are gentlemen in sweats or tracksuits chain-smoking outside; the only language you hear is Eastern Armenian.

The gentlemen that operate the place, all friends, speak only enough English to take your order. Not enough to answer any questions. I recruited my Armenian brother-in-law, Raffi Karadolian, to help me translate and break the ice. They were hesitant and skeptical initially, but soon after getting comfortable, they turned out to be some of the nicest men I'd met. I was able to ask deeper questions to learn more about their barbecue.

Outside of Gharsi Xorovac's restaurant

Gharsi Xorovac, the restaurant's name, comes from a barbecue style from the Kars region. This ancestral Armenian city now sits on the Turkish side of the border. The small group of Armenian friends who run the restaurant are not from Kars but are honoring the name of this ancestral land and its style of cooking meat: gharsi xorovac.

What makes Gharsi Xorovac's style different from others is a traditional preference for pork, which is why you see pork shawarma and even pork ribs on the menu. It's a rarity, especially when most shawarma or kabob places prefer to use beef or lamb in compliance with Halal specifications.

Raffi shared a story about his grandfather, Antranig Kurdian, who used to cross the border into Turkey in the Kars area to trade with Turkish soldiers for the wild boars they used to shoot and kill. The Turks had no appetite for them, but for Armenians in the area, it was perfect for gharsi xorovac.

A freshly prepared pork shawarma spit set up to start roasting.
Edon Haroutounyan pointing at his two pork shawarma spits.

While the barbecue method itself is older, the marinade recipe uniquely belongs to Edo Haroutounyan, a chef who has traveled through Armenia and Russia, and is now bringing his flavors to North Hollywood with friend and owner Aghvan Tadevosyan.

As I sat there on three different days, hoping that the men would answer some questions while I ate, I noticed that Armenian guys came in one after another all day and, in their native language, ordered two gharsi shawarmas each. It's the most popular item there.

The pork shawarma wrapped in toasted lavash bread.

You can get the pork shawarma sandwich with bread, but it would be a mistake to pass on the toasted lavash as a wrap, as it swaddles all that shawarma richness with sliced tomatoes, onions, and their housemade tomato and ranch/mayo sauce. It has all the DNA of its al-pastor descendants, but with its own personality and flavor.

Beef BBQ plate

The gharsi shawarma is the quickest and most popular thing to get, but if you have thirty minutes to spare or want to call it in, the beef barbecue might be some of the best steak you will find in the area.

Thick, rock-sized cuts are skewered, marinated, and grilled to a perfect outside sear with a gentle interior tenderness. That gets served on a plate of perfectly cooked yellow rice, onions, and tomatoes, with their housemade sauces. At twenty dollars, their most expensive plate, you're paying for quality, not quantity, but the beef will satisfy.

A lula wrap.
A peak inside the lula wrap.

The beef lula also has a unique flavor and texture profile. Ground meat mixed so heavily with seasoning and spices that the texture and taste lean toward more of a meaty chorizo. Order it wrapped in toasted lavash and it's about a foot and a half long. But it's a snappy bite, with a gush of flavor; skinny, but long enough to break up into a couple of meals.

Pork Ribs

Lastly, the pork ribs, with their tomato-heavy marinade, cooked with a slight flame-kissed char, meaty down to the bone, are an interesting bite that might make these the most unique pork ribs you will find in the area.

The magic sauce they serve it with is not a BBQ or hot sauce, but a housemade one, tasting like a mayo/ranch-style cream, along with a marinara-like sauce. I found that these shine best with the ribs.

A view inside from the front door.

The shack isn't ideal for dining in, so almost every order is prepared for take-out. There are only two tiny tables inside and a couple more outside, mainly for waiting rather than eating. They open at eleven, but they need to bring out two more glorious pork shawarma spits by 4 P.M. to make it through the evening.

After eating here for almost a week and tasting all their offerings, I am convinced that the men at Gharsi Xorovac are The Kings of Armenian BBQ.

Gharsi Xorovac, 7147 Bellaire Ave. North Hollywood, CA. Closest Metro lines and stop: Bus Line 162 - "Sherman Way/Bellaire" or Bus Line 167 - "Coldwater Canyon/Sherman Way."

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