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Middle East Bakery’s New Cafe Open For Business

10675730_711236388975533_3877374435266677620_nIt has been a long anticipated wait for the opening of the new Middle East Bakery and Grocery’s cafe at 5200 N. Clark St. Since word of bakery’s plans of expanding into the old Icosium Cafe space back in December of 2013, people have been eagerly awaiting the cafe’s arrival.

Well, the wait is over! Owner Hisham Khalifeh officially opened the cafe this past weekend. The quick-serve restaurant at the corner of Foster Ave. and Clark St. will offer their own special flair to food including breakfast, vegan fare and some gluten-free foods. The location will also include an industrial bakery that will provide wholesale products.

Khalifeh told EVB, “We have customers (who) keep coming here for the past 25 or 20 or 15 years. The customers in our place (are) not customers. They are family and friends. We know everybody and everybody knows us. We are excited (about the renovations.)”

Joel Berman of Joel Berman Architecture & Design is the architect on the project. He said that the store has gone through a number of changes since he first did a walk-through in October 2013.

The industrial bakery has special Middle Eastern baking equipment that is different than standard American baking fare. It will include traditional Middle Eastern ovens and conveyer systems to produce items such as pita bread and pita chips. “The equipment is very specialized for the food that (Khalifeh) prepares,” said Berman.

The restaurant portion will seat about 40 people and will have its public entrance on the northwest corner of Clark and Foster. It will serve breakfast and an expanded menu beyond Khalifeh’s current offerings. The cafe will be open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. An unusual focal point will be the custom-fabricated oven made by Zaid Bakri.

Berman said he was a longtime patron of the Middle East Bakery & Grocery before he even moved his firm to 5212 N. Clark St., right above Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread & Wine. His other neighborhood designs of existing businesses include Big Jones; In Fine Spirits Wine Shop; The Brown Elephant; The Galleria; The Coffee Studio; Murphy’s Fit; Giordano Dance Studio; and Revive Spa.

“Personally, I’m excited that (Khalifeh) will be open for breakfast,” Berman said. “I’m looking forward to being there in the morning and trying all his great food and drinking Turkish coffee. He’s bringing really very unique quick-serve food that’s unusually healthy to the area. He is going to be the go-to place for anybody who doesn’t want to load up on sugar (in the mornings).”

“I think everybody will be happy that he’s open,” Berman added.

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