The way to anyone’s heart is through their stomach, (which is something we’d like to think applies to everyone) but the love of a good meal can be universally spoken amongst everyone in the world. While we’re open to all different types of cuisines there is always a soft spot when it comes to a person’s cultural food, especially ours. No matter how many delicious hotdogs we have in New York City or how many mouth-watering croissants we have in Paris, we will always have a craving for a plate of tabouleh or about a dozen falafel. But what about the people living abroad that have constant cravings for Lebanese food? While hopping on a plane eating a full meal and coming back for work the next morning may seem unpractical (we know, it almost seems tempting.) We may have found the perfect solution for people living in Northern New Jersey. Introducing Al Raouche.
Not to get everyone confused, we’re not talking about the Raouche you see outside your window. We’re talking about Al Raouche restaurant located in a small town called Paterson, New Jersey where people drive miles and miles to get a meal cooked just like their mothers. Since we were near the area and feeling a little homesick we knew it would be worth the trip – and lets just put it this way, for a second we thought we really were back in Beirut.
We parked the car and a huge sign that read “Falafel Abou Reda” in all lights greeted us and our stomachs started to growl. Once we walked in the first thing that caught our eye was the huge picture of the raouche rocks and suddenly we felt even more homesick than before! We were then greeted by the humble owner Fadil Reda Faddoul, and sat with him while we devoured our meals. We wanted to know the secret behind owning one of the most successful Lebanese restaurants in the area and how it came about. Believe it or not Mr. Fadil came to America in 1989 straight from Beirut as a civil engineer with his family and kids. After one year of working at JFK all the workers were laid off due to lack of business and that was his open door into the restaurant world. Actually, Al Raouche didn’t first start off as a restaurant; it started off as a mini supermarket! He strictly opened a mini mart that would cater to the Arab community around the state who wanted products from Lebanon but found it difficult to find. He explained, “ I sold 90% of Lebanese products because I was the only one around who had the brands everyone missed.. like Al Rifai! ” (Can you imagine living without Al Rifai? Horrific, we know.)
Now the role of a restaurant starts to kick in. After a few years owning the mini mart they opened a small kitchen in the back where they started to make Falafel. Suddenly word spread like wild fire. You had people driving from state to state to come try Abou Reda’s Falafel with the only available seating of four people at a time. With what seemed like the blink of an eye people started food shopping in one hand and eating in the other and suddenly the demand for a variety of food was through the roof. That is when Abou Reda’s delicious shawarma was introduced (which is what we’re currently stuffing our face in.. woah.)
11 years later due to the high success rate of the small kitchen he decided to close his supermarket and open a restaurant full time – Al Raouche. And add another 11 years later he opens an even bigger restaurant under the same name – that should give you an idea of how good his food is! After we finished our plate of hummus and shawarma we were onto the kefta with the look of hunger vanished on all of our faces.
With almost 30 years of experience in the food industry we had to ask if he’s had the same loyal customers ever since he started- he smiled and said, “Not only do I have the same loyal customers, I have the same loyal staff! I’ve had my cook with me for the last 15 years- he’s been through it all.” Talk about a serious partnership!
Lastly, we know Abou Reda may have been the first to open his business but now there is a lot of competition and we wanted to know his competitive edge, what differentiates his quality and food over others. His answer really uplifted our mood; “ It all goes back to Lebanon… to my roots. I was living my life in Lebanon during the golden ages, 1965-1975 and we didn’t leave a single restaurant or dessert place we didn’t go to. I’m trying to bring back those amazing memories and that culture across the globe.” Which he also incorporates it to match the good taste with the good memory. Take our word for it, he accomplished his goal. It shows through his food, which he only makes using ingredients imported from Lebanon and recipes from Beirut!
As for the future of Al Raouche the good news is he will be expanding with his son in law to Florida in the near future as well as keep his current location in Paterson. Don’t take our word for it- his food is worth the drive!
Al Raouche Restaurant is located in Paterson New Jersey. For reservations please call: (973) 279-5131.