2024 Census of Shawarma

David Segaert

Ottawa is known for shawarma. Or is it?  Ottawa is most certainly known for its shawarma by people that live in Ottawa, but the rest of North America almost certainly does not know, or even notice.  The reason is because in most cities across this continent, it’s a fringe item that barely registers on the local food scene.  And geographically speaking there are many swaths of land across the continent, especially in the United States, where it doesn’t exist at all. Regardless of these facts, Ontario has become a global shawarma hotspot, and every 5 years this culturally significant culinary achievement warrants a high-quality statistical analysis that acts as a vital and essential tool for understanding which hungry mother-fuckers have the best taste in wrapped meat.

For the purposes of this document, I have conveniently named myself this country's pre-eminent authority on shawarma analysis.  Please do not be alarmed at a self-proclamation of this magnitude, because I can assure you that no-one has conducted more practical research in the shawarma and shawarma-related fields than me.  Not only have I eaten significantly more shawarma than any doctor would recommend, I've also gone to great lengths to understand shawarma demographics, spending countless hours poring over old maps and micro-fiche.

The data from this years Shawarma Census was collected using the combined power and awesome authority of both Google Maps and Statistics Canada.  A classic pocket calculator was then used to do some division and multiplication to determine a per-capita shawarma rate for various cities, provinces and territories.  These per-capita rates provide insight as to how shawarma has populated the country, are essential for future generations to maintain equitable representation, and act as the primary source of shawarma-centric socio-culinary data across all communities.

Before presenting the results of the census, here are a few notes on criteria, qualifications and data collection methodologies.  As we all know, this internet-fueled world is riddled with meddling know-it-alls and bitter trolls that can’t wait to challenge the results.  However, as the Shawarma Auditor General I rank in the 99th percentile of shawarma competency, and methods used guarantee a margin of error of less than +/- .00328%.

  • All shawarma places in a city are counted, divided by the total population, then multiplied by 1 million to determine a per capita rate per million inhabitants.
  • The word “shawarma” must appear in the legal name of the establishment for it to qualify as a shawarma place. Everyone knows it’s not a real shawarma place if the word does not appear in the name. Example: Shawarma King, Shawarma Palace, 3 Brothers Shawarma.
  • This raises one interesting point of contention. Does Osmow’s count? Comprehensive consultation with data users, stakeholders and members of the public have determined that it qualifies. Here’s why:Osmow’s seems to be legally named “Osmow’s Shawarma”, so it technically qualifies. Some of their signage says “Osmow’s Shawarma”, while other signage says “Osmow’s Modern Mediterranean Cuisine.” The whole thing is confusing, and shawarma doesn’t really seem to be their primary focus, but If Osmow’s was disqualified from the census, Toronto’s total number of shawarma places would be almost cut in half, which would distort the data and serve as a
    misrepresentation and inaccurate picture of Toronto’s shawarma scene.
  • If the words “And Shawarma” were clearly added to signage years after the establishment opened, that establishment subsequently excluded. Example: Dipshit’s Pizza Palace and Shawarma.
  • Locations listed in the census include all major cities, and all population centers that have significant shawarma density. Many towns and cities across the continent have 0 to 2 shawarma places, and as a result most of them are not listed in the census.

Census Results

  • Shockingly (to Ottawa inhabitants), Ottawa is not the shawarma capital of Canada.  Congratulations St. Catherines and go fuck yourself
  • Southern and Eastern Ontario is ground zero and the undisputed epicenter of shawarma in Canada. There is a strong presence in Alberta and a spattering in Winnipeg and Quebec, but I have officially deemed all provinces and territories outside of Ontario and Alberta to be a "shawarma desert."
  • A Shawarma Desert will officially be known hereafter as: "an urban area in which it is difficult or impossible to buy real shawarma." Unfortunately, many affluent people  across this country are living in a shawarma desert.
  • Please note that there is a high density of wrapped meat sandwiches in many cities across the country, such as Halifax and Montreal, but these wraps are not shawarma.
  • In the Maritimes we see a significant lack of shawarma because the Donair is the undisputed king. Shawarma has not been able to grab a foothold amidst this Donair  supremacy. 
  • There is one shawarma place in Yellowknife, and it is the only shawarma place in the 3 territories. 
  • Ottawa has 72 shawarma places. 17 have royalty-themed names (ex. Shawarma King,Prince Shawarma, etc.), and 16 are named after some type of domicile (ex. Shawarma House, Shawarma Station, Shawarma Palace, etc.). No other city shares such a high  percentage of royalty and domicile-themed names.)