Babylon Cafe – Vancouver, BC

Babylon Cafe
716 Robson Street
Vancouver, BC
Tel: (604) 677 3522

On Foodosophy, we’ve already hit up a number of places serving up shawarmas/donairs.  I think this is due in part to it being an easy, tasty, and convenience take away lunch item; something that both the Foodosopher and I appreciate when we are rushing from place to place during our work days.  Though on a recent off-day, just before checking out a movie at the nearby Vancouver International Film Festival on Granville Street, I passed by this establishment, the Babylon Cafe.  Actually, I should say that it was the amazing smells of the meat cooking on the spits that were being vented out of this small business that drew me inside like a snake charmer.

A very cramped narrow space in front of a serving counter is what makes up the Babylon Cafe.  With about six people working inside, I could see they needed all the manpower to keep up with the lineup that had already built outside.  No doubt, some of these were being drawn in by the smells like I was, as a first time customer.  I was standing at least four people back when I could see one of the men inside waving at me to give my order.  I shouted it out but by the time I got to the counter, someone else had begun making it, and then again, my final wrapped product was handed to me by a third person who I handed my money over to.  A pretty timely affair, and it was obvious they had this process down pat, but for the newbie, perhaps a bit confusing with all the switching and never knowing exactly which one behind the counter being put together is in fact your order.

As I agree wholeheartedly with the Foodosopher’s take on what makes the “perfect” shawarma/donair, as he so conveniently described here, I will just report on the components of the Chicken Shawerma Wrap ($5.70) that I had…

Pita – Non grilled, and a little dry/stale.  Surprising considering the turnover they have.

Meat quality – Contained both the preferred softer and crispier pieces, providing that much needed balance.  Seasoning was a little weak in my opinion.

Mean quantity – Below average, in comparison to the amount of the other fillings.  This was not filled to the brim so to speak either.

Vegetable fillings – Good range as I asked for the “works”, so no point deductions here.

Sauce – More than adequate amount of the creamy Tzatziki.  As I was drink-less and about to step into a movie theatre, I passed on the also available spicy.

I’ve heard that this place had a loyal following, or at least used to.  It is in a high traffic location, and I can imagine that it does brisk business both during weekday lunch hours, as well as the night crowd that streams in and out of the nearby bars and clubs on the weekends.  For a one-off visitor like I am, I didn’t see anything that would draw me back unless I just happened to be in the immediate area and really craving a shawarma again.  Next time, I am sure I won’t let the incredible scents of the meat that dominate the entire block overtake my common sense.  In other words, a lot more “bark” than “bite” in the case of the Babylon Cafe’s shawarma, which comes in with a final grade of “incomplete”.

Babylon Cafe on Urbanspoon

2 thoughts on “Babylon Cafe – Vancouver, BC

  1. I’ve had many shawarmas from many different places and cities and none, in my opinion, compare to Babylon Cafe’s. They are usually super generous with the meat so I was surprised about your review mentioning that they weren’t. Also, they aren’t donairs, they are shawarmas, so the sauce is a sesame sauce made from tahini (think middle eastern), not a tzatziki sauce which is yogurt garlic sauce from Greece. I much prefer tahini to tzatziki and I always ask them to put on extra sauce – which they happily do. Mmmmmm so good.

    • Wow, a very bold statement on your love of this place Thea. Given all of the places you can eat this, here in Canada and in other parts of the world, its even more striking. But to each their own, and respect your right to your opinion as I hope you do mine.

      Although its been a year, I still stand by my documented experience. As the image of the cross section of my purchase there shows, meat was clearly lacking. I’ve been by it many times since and can attest its really popular with the night club crowd and will thus never have any trouble drumming up business, so it doesn’t need my dollars of support, and I’ll get my shawerma/shawarma (however you want to spell it; and I find across this country donair as a word is used interchangeably in many cases) elsewhere, as I came away disappointed and don’t feel the need to give it a second chance as there are so many other places still to explore that offer this delicious food item.



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