Two Middle Eastern restaurateurs are capitalizing on their knowledge of the Mediterranean and have opened a modest-priced BYOB in a corner storefront in the shopping center across from Wegmans.
Blue Fig Cafe (200 Young Ave., Moorestown, 856-638-5186), which opened in September, partners Sam Jadalla, of Mount Laurel, and Jim Osman, of Burlington, in a completely redone eatery decorated primarily by the duo.
Countless treasures from several Mediterranean countries are on display throughout the restaurant: Egyptian floor bluffs for resting feet, Syrian hookahs and handmade wooden drums and lutes.
A giant backsplash made of two-foot wooden blocks in bold colors surrounds the back wall toward the kitchen. Colorful images of Greek Islands and black-and-whites of a 1950s Beirut hang on the walls.
White boxes with recessed lighting are suspended from the dark ceiling to absorb sound, while adding another aesthetic element.
“We did most of the renovations with the help of some contractors,” says Jadalla, 42.
The restaurant will be concentrating on healthy Mediterranean cuisine native to a number of countries from the eastern region of the Mediterranean Sea, including Egypt, Greece, Turkey and Lebanon.
“Everything is made from scratch,” says Osman, 52.
There's a backstory to their enterprise.
Both men originally hail from the Middle East (Jadalla from Kuwait and then Jordan; Osman from Egypt) and emigrated to the United States for schooling. Jadalla married his wife Ebtesama. Osman met his future wife, Ebtesama’s sister, Inas, through the couple.
This venture is Osman’s first foray into the food business. Jadalla has several catering and food operations in Jordan.
“He told me to come join him, so I thought, sure, this looks like a good thing to try,” says Osman, who has a masters degree in engineering from the University of Florida and who works in Manhattan by day. “I’m usually in here every weekend.”
The menu includes tasty Mediterranean appetizers like humus, baba ghanouj, falafel and kibbeh, which is bulgar and lean ground beef stuffed with chopped beef and pine nuts.
They serve fat-free halal meats from animals slaughtered according to Islamic rituals. Grilled lamb chops, chargrilled chicken and various takes on kebabs that blend house spices and herbs are big staples.
And what Mediterranean restaurant would be complete without a Greek salad served in a large single white bowl—enough for two, maybe three people—with cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, black olives and pungent feta cheese. (Savory stuff.)
The pair have enlisted their wives to make tasty desserts like baklava and cookies.
There's also a kids’ menu for less adventurous youngsters with grilled chicken and burgers, and chicken tenders served with french fries.
Blue Fig Cafe is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner. Business has been brisk with reservations filling up for the holidays.
“We just had someone make a Christmas Eve reservation for 15,” says Jadalla. “It’s been good so far.”