Unique cuisine is not difficult to find in a melting pot city such as Houston, but at times can be a pain to reach — but not anymore. Coming in early 2018, local residents will no longer have to trek away from the neighborhood to find the hometown delicacy of Aladdin Mediterranean Grill courtesy of owner Ali Nahhas.
Aladdin offers a variety of Mediterranean salads, spreads, vegetable dishes, sandwiches, shawerma, shish kabob and fresh baked pita bread, and Nahhas is chomping at the bit to bring the delectable Greek cuisine to the Garden Oaks and Oak Forest neighborhoods.
“When I started my old business [in Meyerland], it was within a neighborhood, within a family-style community, and this to me is extremely exciting. It’s not about just being a part of the neighborhood, it’s about being the Mediterranean spot to go in the neighborhood,” he said. “It’s also about me exploring this neighborhood and being that little spot within the community — to me, that’s amazing, and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Slight variance, same great taste
His Garden Oaks/Oak Forest location, he said would be 70 to 80 percent similar to Aladdin’s current home at the corner of Montrose and Westheimer Road, but will feature more kabobs, more appetizers and a heavier focus on the salads in efforts to make create an array of family-friendly options.
While he loves the Montrose area, Nahhas said expanding with a second location within a burgeoning neighborhood is the fulfillment of a dream.
“I always wanted to have an Aladdin be part of a neighborhood. Montrose is a neighborhood, and we have a lot of people coming here after they visit museums, but it’s different when you’re actually a part of the neighborhood,” Nahhas said. “You know everybody by name, and it’s like this relationship that you have. You tweak [the offerings] based on what’s popular in that neighborhood.”
He believes Leader residents, many of whom already make the drive out to Montrose, will quickly take to the fresh and fast cuisine which offers a plethora of options for all pallets.
“It’s good and it’s healthy, yet you still have flavor, and we’re known for our portions. We have vegan and gluten free options, and if you’re a meat lover we have that. The bread is puffy, a little sweet, fresh and hot.” he said. “We’re going to make sure there’s something that everybody likes, so there are going to be some add-ons.”
The complete package
Amidst the anticipation, Nahhas is wracking his brain attempting to figure out every semantic, every logistic option and every contingency plan in hopes of bringing families the perfect neighborhood dining stop.
“You want to make sure you get it absolutely right, and you’re worried about everything getting done correctly, but there’s an adrenaline rush with the whole package,” he said.
Through it all, however, excitement overwhelms him as he attempts to work back to his business roots, and after hearing from developer Bryan Danna, he was sold on bringing Aladdin close to home. And judging from the number of readers who have long wished for Mediterranean food in the hood, the eatery will be a more than welcome addition.
“It’s going back to where it all started, and I also think it’s gotten to where Aladdin should be placed as a neighborhood kind of restaurant,” he said. “It’s the whole package of Aladdin needing a second location after a while, and being part of such a growing neighborhood — I think they’re a great fit for each other.”
As always, he added, no restaurant is complete without seamless patron service—which, for Nahhas, is the glue for any establishment.
“No matter how good your food is or how low your prices are, if you don’t pair it with great customer service, it’s not going to work. The package wins, every time,” he said. “I sit down with every single applicant, make sure they’re nice inside and out. A lot of people don’t really know about this kind of cuisine, so you’ve got to be patient.”
Nahhas said he hopes Aladdin’s second location, to be part of Bryan Danna’s RE:VIVE Development at the southwest corner of 34th and Ella, will be open by either January or February of 2018 barring any major setbacks.