Royal Istanbul is my place. It’s honestly not the best, but I end up going here a lot. If you live in the Pearl, or if you need to get gas in the vicinity, this is the best option for late-night snacks.
That qualifier aside, even though it is not the best, it is pretty darn good. And the people who run it are pretty darn cool. Very attentive.
I have ordered much of the menu here, usually late at night on the way from one venue or another, and I have never been disappointed. Because it is what it is. And c’mon, it’s in a gas station plaza. What do you expect? If you can keep your expectations reasonable, then prepare to be “wow’d.”
I generally get the shawarma plates. Both the chicken and the lamb are quite good. Significantly, they use charcoal instead of gas for their grill dishes, and you can really taste it. The lemony, peppery flavor of the grills and shawarmas gain a substantial depth of flavor that you simply will not get from other spots that just use gas.
My experience is that the fries are hit or miss (good when they are fresh), so I generally just ask for extra lettuce instead of fries (hey, I’m on a diet, haha). The shish taouk is always pretty amazing. The kofta is just meh. But if you have read my other reviews, you already know that I’m a tough crowd when it comes to kofta. So your mileage may vary.
The hummus is delicious. As is the tabouli. I’ve always enjoyed my sides here. Crucial components of my spontaneous “flatbread sandwiches.”
That being said, I’m always sad when I order a shawarma sandwich. Why? Because they have this weird, cloying sweet sauce that they put on it (no matter how many times I order it without) that totally overpowers the char-grilled flavor of the meat. I wish they would throw that container of Catalina salad dressing-flavored sauce in the bin and never mention it again.
Also, the mayo they provide for the shawarma is NOT garlic mayo or garlic aioli, which also makes me sad. So if I would give this place one wish, it would be to use garlic mayo and proper tahini sauce on its shawarma sandwiches. And throw the Catalina dressing in the garbage.
Other than that, and with those cautions, I think this place is worth a try. Especially later in the evening, because (believe you me) you could do a lot worse.