Abou Abdallah: Where Breakfast Meets History
Posted On March 30, 2016
HAVE YOU EVER WOKEN UP SO HUNGRY YOU WOULD EAT YOUR ENTIRE FRIDGE? YES, IT’S HAPPENED TO US TOO! SO WE ASKED OURSELVES, WHERE WOULD THE LEBANESE GO FOR A PERFECTLY FILLING BREAKFAST? WELL, THE ANSWER WAS QUITE EASY! AS WE ALL KNOW, WITH LEBANESE TRADITIONS COME LEBANESE FOOD, AND THERE WAS NOTHING BETTER THAN A LEBANESE BREAKFAST TO KEEP US STANDING ON OUR FEET ALL DAY LONG! FROM FOUL TO HUMMUS, BALILA AND FATTEH, WE COULDN’T RESIST ANYMORE AND DECIDED TO GO TO ONE OF THE BEST LEBANESE RESTAURANT IN TOWN, ABOU ABDALLAH; A PLACE WHERE BREAKFAST TURNS TO MAGICAL BITES OF HEAVEN. AND SINCE WE’RE KNOWN FOR OUR CURIOUS NATURE, WE WANTED TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THIS PLACE THAT KEEPS GETTING THE ATTENTION OF ALL GENERATIONS!
As we turned the corner of the street, we immediately spotted the restaurant and couldn’t wait to get inside and learn all about this place’s story. We were greeted with wide smiles by two very similar looking men (or maybe twins, we couldn’t tell!). The restaurant had a very Lebanese feel with old decorations at the entrance and different paintings on the walls, each representing an area of old Beirut, making us want to go back in time! With Fayrouz singing in the background, we sat down with Rony Khoury, manager of the restaurant and one of Abou Abdallah’s grandsons to travel back to the 50s.
It all started in 1956 with Youssef El Khoury and his wife, widely known as Abou Abdallah and Em Abdallah. The restaurant was initially opened near downtown Beirut under the name of “Al Burj”. In the early 80s, the restaurant moved to where it is today, in Dora.
Abou Abdallah was under his uncle’s care from a young age as he had lost his parents when he was a child. He was a lifeguard first, then went to Zahleh and worked in many restaurants there. He was only in his 20s when he decided to join his uncle’s restaurant. When he got married, he and his wife took over the business and started running it – thus “Abou Abdallah” was born.
It turns out that at that time, the menu consisted only of three main dishes: foul, hummus bi thineh, and balila. People would rush to come to the restaurant for a taste of these amazing Lebanese dishes, and we don’t blame them! Abou Abdallah was (and still is, of course) known for his clean and delicious food! Even during the Lebanese civil war, the clients never ceased to show up! But more than that, people also described him as being generous and having good relationships with his customers. He always treated them as if they were his friends or his guests coming to his home. But after 50 long years of hard work, Abou Abdallah became old and could no longer work. That was when his son Abdallah took over and left the management to one of his sons, Rony.
Until today, there are people who were clients 40 years ago that tell Rony about how famous his grandfather was. They often tell him tales about how they met him and how much they used to love coming to his restaurant.
Today, the menu has expanded to meet the clientele’s demand with many other varieties of Lebanese traditional dishes such as sausages with eggs and different sorts of fatteh. But there was something that really caught our attention: the restaurant opens at 6AM and closes at 3PM. When we asked Rony why they don’t open later, his answer was simple: tradition.
The business’ concept is a Lebanese breakfast restaurant, and extending the opening hours would mean changing the tradition and the concept of the business to turn it into a simple Lebanese restaurant. So closing after lunchtime is not only part of the marketing strategy, but also a part of keeping this heritage intact. A beautiful way to honor the work of his ancestors!
Rony studied hospitality management and completed his master’s degree in marketing. When we asked him if he would have wanted to do something else in his life, he answered “ Never! I studied hard and gained experience from other places with the purpose of taking over the business. I am proud of being a part of this heritage. To me, this is a treasure I would cherish and keep for as long as I can. I want to keep the quality of food and service and keep this place as successful as it used to be and even more!”However, Rony didn’t have it easy. When he first took over, the 2006 war started in Lebanon, and it was hard keeping a business going when the country was going through hard times. When we asked him if he had ever regretted taking over at that period he replied, “When you inherit something from your parents, it becomes your little baby and you will be willing to do whatever it takes to keep it alive and successful”.
Rony is not the only member running the family business; his two brothers are in it as well. Because of its huge success in Beirut, he has had many demands for franchising but he refused all of them because he wants to keep the business in the family and keep all the traditions that come with it no matter the price.
One of his brothers is taking care of all social-media-everything (because you know, that’s important too, millennials!), but when it comes to the future, the idea of opening another branch is not in his plans for now but it could be considered in a few years (Let’s hope for an Abou Abdallah next to one of our branches for a quick breakfast getaway!).
As we saw how passionate he is about his business, we couldn’t resist asking him which was his favorite dish! With a big smile on his face, he said “Balila of course! I am very into fitness and health and chickpeas are a very good source of protein. I sometimes eat them with different seasonings but also spices!” Hmm, now all we can think about is food!
As we were very impressed by this success that has been passed from generation to generation, we asked Rony if he could give us one piece of advice, what would it be? His answer was simple: “Love”. He added, “Success comes with hospitability and kindness. You have to love your clients and treat them as your guest. You have to do everything with love. As long as you work with your heart, you will succeed, no matter the field you’re working in”.
If you’d like to visit Abou Abdallah for breakfast or brunch, you can find them at Dora, Pierre El Gemayel Street or call them on 01 256 286 for more information.