#281: Shawarma Stackz

4:35PM, 8/17/2022


On Wednesday I had myself all worked up for a post gym visit to a place called Wicked Star (Thai/Vietnamese Fusion) located near Chipotle and AT&T by the Galleria, but surprise surprise, they’ve apparently been gone long enough that there is no trace! I pulled up my list to find a backup plan, eventually realizing the backup plan was right in front of me in the same building. Shawarma Stacks was the answer.

I knew nothing of this place prior and I have to be honest that a lot of the gyro/kabob/shawarma/etc places feel pretty similar to me. I wasn’t super thrilled (and was still reeling from Wicked Star closing since I had already picked out what I wanted earlier in the day) but at 4:30PM I headed in. Last time I was here this was still Blast 825º Pizza. I recall the place feeing big and modern at the time (this was 8 years ago) and it still retained that. The large space is a bit more partitioned into 2 distinct dining areas and the kitchen. Now hanging from the center of the already visually interesting ceiling are a bunch of colorful lanterns.

When you first walk in you turn to the right and have a long walkway to the kitchen side of the store. In this walkway are three large panels with the menu (identical to the take-out paper menu’s three main panels if I recall). I stood here for a while going over all my options. For entrees you can build a pita (baked in house), a bowl (with a base of Basmati rice) or a salad (organic spring mix topped with tomatoes, red onions, bell peppers, kalamata olives and feta cheese with a vinaigrette dressing). Protein options for all three include falafel, chicken shawarma or steak shawarma. Fifteen toppings and 6 sauces make up the add-ons here.

Feeling mildly overwhelmed and unsure what direction to go I decided to pick out one of the “Stackz Originalz”, a collection of three pre-configured pitas and one salad. I went with The O.G. Pita (Inspired by the original Syrian style shawarma. Our steak shawarma pita, stuffed with shredded lettuce, parsley mix, tomatoes, pickled cucumber and Tahini sauce)[$11]. Looking to the sides menu, a lot of it is pretty standard stuff – pita chips, falafel, hummus. A couple things jumped out at me. The first were the Stackz Fries (French Fries topped with tomatoes, red onions, bell peppers, kalamata olives, pepperoncinis, feta cheese and choice of sauces)[$5 half / $8 full]. You can also add falafel or shawarma to these, which made them sound pretty good. The second item was Halloumi Cheese Stix (Imported Halloumi Cheese fried and served with our house baked pita, specialty Fig Jam and Cucumber-Yogurt sauce)[$9.50]. I decided on the Halloumi Cheese Stix as I was totally unfamiliar with these.

With that I stepped around the corner and, now in view of the staff, was greeted and someone met me at the register within a few seconds. I added a fountain drink to my order, paid and headed over to the fountains. They serve Stubborn brand soda, and even had a sugar free cola, which was the first I’ve seen of it (and it was quite good). Another interesting note on the fountains was how you pour it. Instead of a button or lever they have draft style handles that you pull, which I thought was kind of fun.

My food was out in no time, under five minutes I think. My initial reaction to the Halloumi Cheese Stix was that they looked like steak fries, and that there weren’t a whole lot for almost $10. After doing some reading about this cheese and talking to a coworker from Lebanon about it, I’ve decided that the pricing is actually fairly normal. The pita looked a little flat, but that was deceiving in the basket. Once I lifted it up I could tell there was quite a bit inside.

Starting off with the cheese I tried a bite on its own. It’s a medium-firm cheese with very mild, slightly salty flavor. The outside was just barely crisped up. These were decent, but they really shined with the fig-jam. The jam was dense and I had to be carful not to break off the cheese when scooping some up. It was delicious and very sweet, which went really well with the saltiness of the cheese. The cucumber-yogurt sauce was quite good as well, but man that fig-jam, I’m still thinking about it a day later. I would totally get this again. I should mention that I didn’t really touch the pita these came on, partly because I already had one with my entree, but also I wasn’t really sure what to do with it anyway. My coworker told me about how his mother would wrap the cheese up in pita along with some peppers as a snack. I’ll have to give that a shot next time.

Moving on to the pita. I should preface this by mentioning one of the few places I’ve had shawarma is Eat A Pita in Rancho Cordova. I probably first went there to try it after seeing that post-credits scene from The Avengers where they are all chilling in the shawarma shop getting a bite to eat after the battle of NYC. That shawarma is so intensely seasoned and delicious, I had yet to try it anywhere else for fear of being disappointed. Big mistake, this shawarma was just as good. Now I need to get it everywhere. This pita was great and, like I said, huge. I didn’t even finish it, which is rare for me since my stomach is a bottomless pit most of the time. The pickled cucumbers were a really nice addition to the flavors here. This was nicely constructed and had a bit of everything in each bite.

Overall I came away extremely pleased with this place. A far cry form my initial mindset when I first headed in. This appears to be the only one of these, and it’s very cool to have it here in Roseville.


#248: Garden of Eat’n

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I’ve been needing to post something lately and tonight had a sudden urge (led by my stomach) to check out a place that I just recently heard about called Garden of Eat’n.  This is a salad & wraps place located in the Creekside Town Center across from the Galleria.  I headed in at around 5:30 and was the only customer (briefly).  I was greeted right away and asked if I had ever been there.  Obviously not, as I stopped at the wrong end of the kitchen.  I was shown over to the correct end where  I now saw the menu displays.

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I got strong vibes of Jack’s Urban Eats mixed with a little bit of Chipotle.  The ingredients were numerous and looked fresh, although the chicken and some other meats were pre-prepared and kept cold with the rest of the toppings.  There was a little conveyor driven oven where they warmed up the chicken for my order.  You can choose from house recipe salads and wraps or build your own.  I opted for the Spicy Chicken Bacon wrap (lemon-peppered chicken with crisp bacon, grape tomato, romaine, in sriracha ranch)[$8] and added a Mac & Cheese [$5.50], just to try more than one thing.  To drink they had bunch of bottled beverages, a watermelon limeade in a self-serve dispenser and Stubborn Sodas on the fountain machine.  I had never heard of Stubborn before and tried out the Lemon Berry Açaí [Medium with free refills $2.75].  They us no artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup or dyes.

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I picked out the one tortilla flavor that they were out of and ultimately got the Spicy Chipotle.  They built my wrap pretty quickly and said they would bring the mac & cheese out to me soon.  I set my wrap on a table and snapped a few photos until it came out maybe a minute later.

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Both looked pretty good.  The wrap was full and almost coming apart so I had to pick it up carefully.  It wasn’t heavy though.  Most of it was romain and tomatoes, though I did get chicken and bacon in just about every bite.  The chicken was decent.  I think it could have been a little juicer and definitely could have been much hotter.  I think having it pre-prepped and stored cold is the culprit here.  I’d be willing to wait longer for fresh chicken.  The bacon had good flavor and the tomatoes were nice and ripe.  The best thing about this was the sriracha ranch.  It was delicious and even had a really nice heat that snuck up on me in the first half of the wrap.

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The mac and cheese was unfortunately extremely bland.  Texture was about the only thing going for it.  The cheese was gooey and the noodles were cooked just right.

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Probably my favorite thing about this visit was my discovery of Stubborn Soda.  The Lemon Berry Açaí was awesome.  I am still sipping it now and enjoying every little bit.  The berry flavor is actually pretty dominant, I can barely taste any lemon at all, but it’s fantastic nonetheless.  I’m going to be looking for bottles of this to pick up soon (which they do have also).

Ultimately it was a kind of disappointing experience.  The meats being re-prepped, I feel, really hurts this place and the prices are a bit high for what you get.  Jack’s Urban Eats just mops the floor with the same concept.

#180: Trademark Pizza Co

It was only 4:30 today when I decided I wanted to knock out a post.  I wasn’t even all that hungry, I was just oddly motivated for some reason.  I first headed to El Charro Taqueria and found that it was not open (they seem to only be open Friday and Saturday in the evening).  Switching gears, I headed up along Vernon to Atlantic and Eureka until I was turning into the Stone Point shopping center, where you’ll also find some of my favorite restaurants in Roseville, Paul Martin’s, Blue Nami and New Thai Kitchen (which is now in a bigger, nicer location in the same center).

The spot that New Thai Kitchen left has already been reoccupied by a brand new business, Trademark Pizza Co.  I spotted this place just last weekend while grabbing some takeout from New Thai.  I popped in for a few seconds to snag a menu and take a look around.  The staff at the time seemed genuinely friendly and thanked me for coming in despite me not ordering anything.  They were off to a good start.  One of the two things I was handed was a little paper flyer (above) which, I was told, is the concept.  The gist: 11″ pizza, unlimited toppings, $8, cooked in 3 minutes.  Aaaaaand I was sold.

I approached the doors at 4:50PM and paused to take the exterior photo while the light was still good.  As I finished I head a voice from inside saying “Come on in!  The pizza is calling you!”  It wasn’t in my head, one of the Trademark employees was actually saying this.  I stepped inside and up to the glass enclosed counter.  I had no idea how this place worked so I asked where I started and what I needed to do.  I was told to start at the far right end against the wall and that one of the workers would build my pizza as we moved down the line.  So basically a lot like a Chipotle or Freebirds (more like Freebirds since the same person worked with me all the way to the end).  Of course at this time of the day on a Tuesday they were pretty slow, as most restaurants would be (like my post from last Tuesday where the Galleria was a total ghost town), so my pizza was started instantly.

My personal pizza-maker had an 11″ pizza skin (We called them “skins” at Round Table, I have no idea whether or not that’s an industry-wide term, probably not) on a wooden paddle ready to be built.  She asked if I would be creating my own or trying one of the Trademark Originals.  I took a moment to look up at the menu on the wall and go over these, but nothing really stood out to me, so I went the create your own route. I was kind of winging it at first, but once I got past the cheese I had a pretty good idea of what I was making.  The have a fairly sizable list of sauces, cheeses and main toppings.  You can check out the whole menu here.  I started with their white sauce which was appropriately called “White Sauce”.  Next up I had 9 cheeses to pick from.  I went with their basic Trademark 3-Cheese Blend.  I didn’t ask what that was, but I would assume it was similar to Round Table’s Mozzarella, Cheddar and Provolone blend (sorry, lots of RTP comparisons in this one).

Now, with a foundation of sauce and cheese, I started to form in my head what I was building.  It was going to be one of my old standbys that I used to make right before opening RTP for lunch.  Grilled chicken, Italian sausage and smoked bacon made up the meats.  One thing I should note that pleased me was that they did not sit there and measure every ingredient.  She scooped handfuls of each item, including the cheese, and spread it over the pizza until it looked just right.  I rounded the corner and looked over the veggies while she finished putting the meats on my pizza.  They have over 20 to choose from in this category.  I went with black olives, white mushrooms, red onions and spinach.  This was a bit more than my traditional chicken, bacon & olives, but I was feeling good about it.  I was even more happy about the fact that, no matter what I was adding, the price was a steady $8.  I just looked up a specialty 10″ small from Round Table for comparison and it’s already nearly twice the price for an inch smaller pizza and less toppings (and a longer wait time).

My pizza was slid into the big oven with giant flames shooting up the sides (they were clearly visible from outside the store, and I’m sure even more so after the sun sets).  The door is glass so you can see your pizza as it cooks.  I slid down to the register to pay.  Here they have a very modern register setup.  There is a touch screen facing you, which you use to complete the transaction.  Before I got started the cashier asked if I would like to join their rewards program (buy 10 get 1 free I think) and took my phone number for that.  Once it was entered into the system, the LCD showed my progress: 1 of 10 purchased.  Kinda neat.  Moving on, she swiped my card and then the rest was up to me on the touch screen.  The first thing I was shown was a screen with optional tip amounts in various percentages.  I’m not really sure how I feel about these when they are presented like this.  I’m probably just getting old and bitter.  I left a small tip.  Finally I signed the screen with my finger.  It was a little awkward due to the screen’s angle, but it worked fine.  While I was doing this, another employee was working on pouring me a Shock Top [$4 – per the receipt, this is considered an import for some reason] from their small selection of taps.  He had a bit of trouble and was getting a lot of foam, but eventually managed to get a nice, full cup.  I thought it was a little odd that it was a plastic cup rather than a standard pint glass.  By the time I got this, and took a moment to take a quick photo of the dining area, my pizza was ready and handed to me.  From the time I walked through the door to this point, only about 8 minutes had passed.  I think that’s pretty impressive.

So now I’m sitting at my table with this good sized little pizza in front of me.  Toppings are in good amounts.  Aside from one or two areas right near the crust I don’t really see any thin or bare spots.  The crust is very crisp while still being somewhat soft throughout.  I needed both hands to support a slice, and more importantly to not lose a bunch of the toppings which were fairly loose on top.  Every last topping on this was great.  The cheese was exactly what I wanted, a little stringy but not crazy.  The sausage, bacon and chicken were all very tasty.  The onions were crisp and the olives were rich and delicious.  I might ask for more spinach next time, but that’s a never ending rabbit-hole.  I could add pounds of spinach and still want more.  You should see the Mongolian BBQ bowls I make these days.

I was really, really impressed with Trademark Pizza.  I didn’t really know what to expect from it when I showed up.  It’s clearly the best value in pizza you can get anywhere in the area.  Their speed is unmatched (except by me in my RTP heyday – hooooooo!).  They are ridiculously friendly, though in a very genuine way.  The pizza is good.  Really.  Good.  It’s inexpensive.  The quality of ingredients is high.  I don’t know what else I can say.  It’s like the creators of this business actually considered all the things I would like in a pizza place and implemented each one correctly.  I’m gonna go ahead and say it’s my favorite pizza in Roseville, nay, best pizza ever?  Maybe.  That’s a tough call, but I can’t think of what I would put ahead of it.  It’s great, that’s what I’m getting at, anyway.