The Doner Kebab
With origins in the Ottoman Empire that date back centuries, doner kebab and its descendants have become some of the most popular foods of the Western world. The beloved dish stacks slabs of marinated meat on a vertical spit, which rotates beside a heat source, charring the meat’s exterior as it slowly cooks the interior. To serve, thin pieces are shaved by slicing down the outside of the meat.
As the dish has spread around the world, it has inspired spinoffs: Greece’s gyro, Mexico’s Al Pastor, and Lebanon’s shawarma, to name a few. But, it is Germany that is credited with boosting the popularity of the modern day version of doner kebab: meat stuffed into a pita, with any of a variety of salads, vegetables, and sauces. There are said to be more than 16,000 doner kebab establishments in Germany, and the sandwich has now spread through much of Europe, too.
Until recently, though, this type of doner kebab was not available in Charlottesville. (The doner kebab on Sultan Kebab’s menu, while delicious, is made from ground beef and lamb cooked on a grill.) In 2020, Turkish natives Ali Sevindi and Haldun Turgay came to the rescue with their restaurant Otto. Sevindi and Turgay met while working at Clifton Inn, and dreamed of opening their own restaurant. They had seen the popularity of doner kebab elsewhere, and thought it would appeal to Charlottesville, too. How could it not?
To make sure, before opening, Sevindi and Turgay spent months studying and perfecting their doner kebab. At Otto, guests can build a sandwich from an array of fillings, or choose from a menu of signature items. Named with a nod to the dish’s Ottoman and German roots, the “Ottobun” offers a choice of beef, chicken, or falafel stuffed into pita with hummus, red cabbage, sumac onions, pickled cucumbers, tzatziki, and ezme – a Turkish paste of tomatoes and red peppers. A sign on Otto’s wall says: “It always starts with great pita!,” and Otto makes their own from scratch, soft and pillowy. In fact, they make just about everything from scratch, which may explain why one of Charlottesville’s top chefs called the Ottobun the best thing he ate all year.
#4: Ottobun with Beef – Otto
The Charlottesville 29 of Sandwiches
Others of Note: Doner Kebab Sandwich at Sultan Kebab, Beef Shawarma Manousheh at Thyme & Co. Vegetarian Alternatives: Ottobun with Falafel at Otto, Falafel Wrap at Aromas Cafe, Falafel Flatbread Wrap at Sticks.