Eat the Strip

Skela Foods

1884 Merivale Rd Unit 15, Nepean, ON K2G 1E6

April 30, 2023 11:59 PM

By: Ameya Charnalia


Move aside donair, there’s a new sheriff in town.

Chevapi is a kebab-based dish found in the countries of the former Yugoslavia. While not as famous as its meat-in-a-bun cousin—the shawarma or the donair—it definitely deserves its day of glory.

Fortunately, Skela Foods in southern Ottawa has us covered.

The Balkan grocery store was a staple in the Carlington neighbourhood for years before moving south, near Merivale Road and Hunt Club Road, not too far from the airport.

Its new location comes with a modern kitchen equipped with a flat top grill and deli located near the back of the store. Its front consists of a grocery store stocked with items from across Europe.

We ordered a large plate of 10 chevapi. The kebabs—traditionally made with an assortment of meat—were served on toasted lepinja, a flatbread, with a side of diced onions, ayvar and kajmak.

Skela personifies the ultimate strip mall gem—a grocery store that doubles as a restaurant
Skela personifies the ultimate strip mall gem—a grocery store that doubles as a restaurant

Before we continue, we let’s take a moment to dive into two of those sides.

Kajmak is a—you guessed it—Balkan cheese traditionally made from unpasteurized milk. It’s unripened, fluffy and light, not unlike whipped cream. Ajvar is made with charred red bell peppers peeled and combined with roasted eggplant, garlic, oil, and vinegar. Commercial and regional ingredients may vary but both are ubiquitous across the Balkans.

After a 15-minute wait, we were served a hot plate of chevapi and a slice of burek.

This dish is greater than the sum of its parts. Each ingredient is unquestionably tasty, but, when I took a bite of everything together—the crumbling meat, the soft cheese, the crunch of the onions and the saucy spread—the flavours worked their magic to take me back to weekends during my university days when we’d look for the perfect grub to soak up the from a night out.

Don’t be fooled, however. This is a sophisticated dish and not one suitable just for university or college kids running around with the beer munchies.

The lepinja was made in-house. The meat comes from a special manufacturer in Toronto and the ingredients are fresh. There’s a rotating menu and everything is made right in front of you.

Skela sells fresh lepinja, which is also used to prepare the chevapi
Skela sells fresh lepinja, which is also used to prepare the chevapi

A large portion was enough to fill two people up. Our total came to $25.75, which included the chevapi, a fresh portion of burek and a latte macchiato.

Do yourself a favour and go get the chevapi before they run out.