Introducing Al Basha: Iraqi Food Dating Back Generations Comes to Charlottesville

It turns out there’s a reason why the bread is so good at Al Basha. The baking roots of the man behind the new Dairy Market stall date back nearly a century. Omar Al Shaban’s grandparents founded what was once one of Iraq’s most famous bakeries, Al Samadi, circa 1948. Now, he is bringing Iraqi food to Charlottesville.

Al Samadi. These pictures were so treasured that Al Shaban’s father drove them hundreds of miles from Ohio to Virginia, rather than risking losing them in the mail.

Soft and pillowy, Al Basha’s version of the Iraqi flatbread samoon draws on Al Shaban’s family’s recipe. It serves as the backbone of sandwiches that are already contenders for The Charlottesville 29 of Sandwiches. Options for fillings include shawarma, falafel, tikka, hummus, or, best of all, Iraqi kabob. Al Shaban follows the traditional method of adding no spices to the ground meat for the kabob — just salt and the juice of minced onions. The meat is then shaped around a skewer and grilled, yielding an unusually tender, meaty kabob. Al Shaban credits the texture and flavor to the quality of the halal meat, sourced from Grand Market, and his blend: 60% beef, 30% lamb, and 10% lamb fat.

For those who prefer their meat with more spice, there is chicken shawarma. Al Shaban imports a spice blend from a friend in Iraq, which he generously tosses on slabs of chicken before stacking them on a vertical rotisserie. As the chicken turns and cooks, he shaves off meat from the exterior to stuff into bread with pickles, garlic sauce, and hummus.

All the sandwich fillings are also available as platters with rice and and a choice of three sides, from options like baba ganoush, taboula, and onions with sumac. Lunch and dinner are served daily, with catering services available as well. Follow along on the restaurant’s Facebook page and Instagram.