EDITOR'S NOTE: This story originally ran on GuelphToday Nov. 2.
It’s not quite Diagon Alley, but for any Potterhead craving shawarma, a new restaurant in downtown Guelph is ready to celebrate fusion food and all that is Harry Potter.
Shawarma Alley, located at 43 Macdonell St., the old Double Dragon location, held it grand opening Thursday, serving up signature Potter-inspired dishes including its chicken nimbus wrap, shrieking steak wrap, pepperoni patronus pizza, and wings of fire.
“The Harry Potter theme is fun, and it excites people when ever they come in. Kids, adults, everyone likes Harry Potter,” says Shawarma Alley co-owner Gagan Chaudhary. “But really, it’s all about the food.”
The first Shawarma Alley location opened in Georgetown last year. Guelph is the second location, with a soft launch on Oct. 7, and a third has just opened in Milton.
“I live in Georgetown, and so I used to visit that location often. I’m very much a foodie and I especially love shawarma,” Chaudhary said.
“When it first opened, it became quite popular, quickly. I love the pizza and plates. There such a variety. That was always my go-to.”
So, Chaudhary thought, why not open his own spellbinding location in Guelph?
Shawarma Alley founder Zishan Ashraf was raised in the United Arab Emirates and developed a love for shawarma and Mediterranean cuisine. His wife, co-founder Hifza Humayun, was born in Pakistan but was raised in Canada where she found a love for pizza, and yes, all that is Harry Potter.
Shawarma Alley co-founder Tahir Humayun said the Harry Potter theme originated with Ashraf, his brother-in-law, his sister and nephew.
"My sister Hifza has always been a huge Harry Potter fan. She and my nephew are really crazy about it. She did the artwork here in Guelph location. So, that was the inspiration behind Shawarma Alley,” Humayun said.
“Many people grew up with Harry Potter. People should try alley sauce abracadabra and our other Potter-themed dishes. Our shawarma pizza and shawarma poutines, and wraps are most popular and offer something different," Humayun said.
“And for specialties, our ultimate pizza is really something. It has chicken, beef and gyro, a mix of lamb and beef, right on top. It’s a must-try."
Harry Potter fans can find flags of all the houses, along with drawings with images from the books.
But what really makes the menu unique, Chaudhary said, are the pizzas such as the Hawaiian-homora, and ultimate kedavra.
“I would say we value quality over quantity. We really try to focus on that and giving every customer a positive experience. We don’t want this to be a destination to just eat but also where someone can come and feel good,” Humayun said.
“There’s so much going on in the world. Why not have this place of positivity with some nice decorations and a magical theme? It's a little escape.”
Chaudhary came to Canada from India seven years ago.
“And now I am so excited to open this location. My mother knew I really wanted this, so my family is very excited for me. It really is a dream come true from me,” he said.
Prior to taking on this new venture, Chaudhary completed his master’s in automotive engineering at the University of Windsor.
“This is totally different and outside my comfort zone but my partner, co-owner Harpreet Singh, has a culinary background. So, we are both very excited to be here,” Chaudhary said.
“I love this place. It’s a great area that can get quite busy, especially at night.”
Shawarma Alley is currently open from 11 a.m. to at 3 a.m., daily.
“I think this is a place to explore. It’s somewhere you can come and try something new every day. And there’s lots of variety,” Humayun said.
“And if you like Harry Potter, it makes it even more exciting. Shawarma Alley has something for everyone.”