Middle East eatery squeezes into Stadium Village

The 450-square-foot Middle Eastern restaurant will focus on deliveries and catering.

by Nicolas Hallett

Mohamad Abdul Ahmad’s new restaurant is skeletal. It has no food yet — only the basics.

The front door sat open on Tuesday as he wiped down the dusty register. As soon as he removed the last speck of dirt, Abdul walked to the front of the restaurant and yelled, “We’re open! Come on in.”

Ahmad, 66, said he plans to open his Middle Eastern restaurant, Abdul’s Afandy, this weekend at the earliest but “definitely” by next week.

“I could put a sign up, but I like the mystery,” Ahmad  said.

The new Stadium Village  restaurant is replacing the closed U of M Market, the owner of which Ahmad  called a friend.

Passers-by wandered in the open door, looking for the menu’s promised falafel, hummus and shawarma.

University of Minnesota economics and math junior Mohsin Almoshawer was among those who came into the store on Tuesday.

“I can’t wait,” he said.

At Afandy, which means “at your service,” Ahmad  said he’ll focus primarily on to-go orders, deliveries and catering because the approximately 450-square-foot space is “just a kitchen.” He said he signed a five-year lease and will have about 20 employees when fully operational.

One couple walked in and tried to place an order, asking for the Daily Special without bread.

“One order with extra bread, coming up,” Ahmad  quipped back before informing them he wasn’t open yet.

“I like meeting people,” he said. “I did this because of the location. I love this location and being by all the students.”

Ahmad claims he opened the first Middle Eastern restaurant in Minnesota in 1973, and he doesn’t lack confidence when it comes to cooking ability.

“I’m the best. I’m the teacher,” he said. “The line from this restaurant will go down to Walgreens [at the end of the block] all day.”

Ahmad previously worked at Wally’s Falafel and Hummus in Dinkytown.

Wally’s owner Wally Sakallah said he’s not worried about Afandy taking customers.

“If anything, I will help him,” he said. “The [restaurants] are totally different in what we are providing.”

Almoshawer’s excitement was palpable because he only eats Middle Eastern food, he said.

He said few Middle Eastern restaurants on campus are genuine and hopes this one will be authentic.

“Anyone can make falafel and hummus, but you’ve got to make it right,” Ahmad said. “They like my food because it reminds them of home.”