A Lebanese restaurant will make its debut in Roanoke on Monday.
Cedars Lebanese Restaurant has been years in the making for the Saliba family, who moved to the United States from Lebanon in 2001.
Since then, their cuisine, which they have prepared for friends and catered at various events, has earned them praises — and often the suggestion that they should open a restaurant.
Gaby Saliba, 25, has spent the past few years researching the market and locations for the restaurant. He wanted to be downtown because of the daytime population and foot traffic, he said.
He found what he said was the right location in the formerBinaba shop (which has moved to Market Street under the name Villages of Africa) on Campbell Avenue, betweenNawab and Benny Marconi’s.
He and his family have spent the past five months fixing up the space. They refinished the hardwood floors, put up new drywall, gutted the bathrooms and more.
“We wanted to do it right,” Saliba said. He wouldn’t say how much money he has spent on the renovations.
They constructed a wall to separate the kitchen from the dining room, but the wall has open windows because Saliba thought it was important that customers could see where and how their food was being prepared.
He is using as many local food vendors as possible, although many of his ingredients are being imported. Those ingredients include spices, oils, chickpeas, pickles and some cheeses, Saliba said. If he is granted an ABC license he will offer beer and wine. For now, the restaurant will carry Laziza, a non-alcoholic beer.
The menu includes items such as hummus, hummus with shawarma (thin, sliced marinated beef), baba ghanouj, falafel, raw kibbeh (beef with wheat and seasoning) and labneh (yogurt with olive oil). Platters include several types of kebabs (chicken, lamb, ground beef), beef shawarma and shish taouk (cubed chicken breast). The menu also includes wraps and salads.
The Saliba family will cook the food “exactly how we would fix it at the house,” Saliba said.
Customers will not only be getting Lebanese food, but also a bit of culture, Saliba said.
“We want to bring a more diverse taste to Roanoke, and we want to show the Lebanese culture,” Saliba said.
He said the decor, with pictures on the walls, will convey the culture, as will servers who can educate diners about the food.
The restaurant has 11 tables and will serve a quick-order lunch, meaning customers will order at the counter and clear their tables when they are finished. A wait staff will be on hand for dinners.
Saliba said he doesn’t have any experience running a restaurant, but he has management experience and has hired a consultant.
Saliba started his own computer business, GMS Computer Services and Sales, which he sold about a year and a half ago. Running that business taught him management skills and other business basics such as figuring out how to price merchandise. Saliba is now working in the IT field and plans to continue working that job while running the restaurant.
Cedars is the only Lebanese restaurant in downtown Roanoke. The Hummus House, which was inside in the Crystal Tower building at the corner of Second Street and Campbell Avenue, closed a year ago when the building was purchased for redevelopment. The owner had said he was going to try to reopen the restaurant elsewhere but hasn’t done so.
Also in the column, a Smith Mountain Lake retailer selling items made from alpaca fibers has moved into a larger storefront, and more information on Kroger’s coupon policy, including feedback from blog readers.