Farzana Jiwani has brought the taste of the Mediterranean to Tyler.
“This is the center of Tyler,” Jiwani said of why he chose to put the restaurant in that store. “There are a lot of Muslim communities that live in this area, too.”
Mrs. Jiwani said they have owned convenience stores for nearly 20 years, first in Houston and then in Tyler and East Texas after moving here nine years ago.
She said Houston and Dallas have a big market for Mediterranean cuisine and they loved eating it, so they thought they should bring it to Tyler.
She said everything on the menu is grilled and healthy, made with homemade herbs and spices that aren’t too spicy.
The most popular dish is the chicken shawerma — sliced marinated chicken grilled with tomatoes, onions, pickles and garlic sauce. The mixed grill platter, a combination of chicken, beef and kufta kabob is also a favorite with customers, she said.
The menu also offers such dishes as falafel, kufta, kibbe, cilantro potatoes, kabobs, gyros and dolma grape leaves, as well as spaghetti marinara, fettuccini alfredo and a vegetarian sampler.
Mrs. Jiwani said everything is made fresh after it is ordered — even the naan bread — and is reasonably priced.
She said she thinks a lot of people don’t know about the restaurant, and the news is slowly spreading through word of mouth. Mrs. Jiwani believes there might be a lot of people in Tyler who have not tried that type of cuisine, while others come just for the authentic grape leaves or hummus.
“Lunch time is the busy time,” she said, adding that they have several repeat customers.
The restaurant has seating for about 20 people and also has a drive-thru. People can call ahead for pick-up orders. She said they are adding two more shawerma machines to the one they already have to make it easier for the chef. The cooking is done out front so customers can watch and know what they are getting.
Adnan Bdah, the chef, said he has been cooking for about 10 years. He has lived in Palestine, California and New York before friends convinced him to move to East Texas four years ago.
The original Alwadi Mediterranean Sandwiches restaurant is in Houston and has different owners, Mrs. Jiwani said.
She said they had been in the convenience store business for a long time and moved to Tyler because they are Muslims who wanted a dry county so they wouldn’t have to sell alcohol in their stores. She said the recent alcohol election, in which voters approved the sale of beer and wine in stores in Tyler and Precinct 2, will affect two of their locations.
They have six Bunny’s store in Tyler and East Texas, with three more coming, she said. The Jiwanis have three children, one of whom works in the family business.