Before opening the Shahrazad Cafe & Market, says Khalaf, he made some fact-finding trips to Los Angeles, Detroit and Chicago to see what restaurateurs in other cities were doing. He fell in love with the shiny metal trays for appetizer combos that he found in Detroit. So much so that he brought enough of them back to serve in his own dining room. The Shahrazade appetizer combo — $9.99 for two people, $18.99 for four — can be made with his most popular new creation, fried cilantro potatoes as well as creamy hummus, baba ghanoush, stuffed dolmas, falafel patties, pink pickled turnips, and tahini sauce.
Last week Khalaf introduced something completely different: a weekend breakfast deal offered each Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to noon. "It's all you can eat falafel, hummus, baba ganoush, fava beans, pickles and pita bread and hot tea for $4.99," says Khalaf. He wasn't sure that his American-born customers would find the selection as enticing as his patrons from Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Lebanon — but on the first Saturday, the dining room was packed.
I mean, I'm not sure that it's my kind of breakfast (I might need a sweet roll or something), but Khalaf is thinking of all kinds of promotional ideas to lure customers into his cafe. "The weekends are always busy," he says. "But I need to encourage customers to come in on the week nights!"
In keeping with his Muslim faith, Khalaf does not serve alcohol and has no plans to do so. Customers can order hot tea (including mint or sage), fruit juices, American or Turkish coffee, soft drinks or jallab, a beverage made with dates and rosewater. Shahrazad Cafe isn't a fancy place (the lighting couldn't be less flattering to anyone over the age of ten), but the food scores: the cumin-scented lentil soup is fantastic, the salads are fresh, the fresh, soft pita is from Kansas City's Olive Cafe & Bakery, and the lamb chops are marinated in olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic.
The restaurant is open Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday.