When the floodwaters roared through Baton Rouge in 2016, Kabobs Greek and Lebanese Restaurant was one of its victims.
Finally, 40 long months later, the eatery is back in business.
Kabobs reopened on Dec. 10, and, since then, it’s been almost like the disaster never happened.
“Our customers are really loyal to us,” said Emad Qasim, the restaurant’s chef. “The day we opened on a Tuesday, it was kind of raining. I wanted a really slow opening. Guess what? When they saw that sign ‘Now Open’ …”
“They came,” said owner Kristina Murphy.
All is took was that sign, and soon customers, many of whom live in the Shenandoah and White Oak Landing subdivisions, were again filling the booths and tables at the restaurant on George O’Neal Road, a major thoroughfare in the southeastern part of the parish.
Over the years, the building had been home to several enterprises, most notably Abe’s, a popular barbecue place. Murphy said she bought the building out of foreclosure in 2012. She initially wasn’t sure what she wanted to do with it. However, she had earlier hired Qasim, a Jordan native who had previously cooked at the local chain Albasha, as a handyman for her property. She approached him about starting a Mediterranean restaurant.
“I was selfish," Murphy said. "I wanted hummus.”
Qasim said the idea caught him by surprise — a good surprise.
“This is my dream life, to have my own restaurant and do what I love to do — cooking,” Qasim said. “We looked at it. It needed a lot of updates, which she was able to do. It took us almost a whole year to finish the place.
“We opened the doors. We start cooking. Everybody loved us.”
The menu offers Mediterranean fare — kabobs, shawarma, gyros, baba ghanouj, moussaka, hummus, falafel and a handful of selections like shrimp scampi and hamburgers. Although he has staff to help with food prep, Qasim does all the cooking himself. When he wants time off, the restaurant closes until he returns.
That’s what happened in June and July 2016, when Qasim visited family in Jordan. The restaurant had been back open for only about a week when the devastating flood struck in August, filling the restaurant with about 3 feet of water. It ruined thousands of dollars of food that had been bought to restock the restaurant, as well as caused considerable damage to the building, which did not have flood insurance, Murphy said.
Although Murphy had work done to stop mold, replace drywall and disinfect the interior, she hesitated to reopen. Part of it was concern over national and international issues, she said. Qasim returned to working on her properties and also cooked at another restaurant.
But her customers clamored to have the restaurant back, and she relented.
“I’m full-time organist at my church, and people were coming by saying, ‘When are you going to open up?’ I kept getting this," she said. "If I wasn’t the organist at the church, I'd say, ‘Forget it. I’m going to sell this property because I don’t need it.’
However, Murphy said she didn't want to be a failure.
"I said it’s time to do this.”
The menu is the same as before, except for price adjustments. Murphy salvaged the decorative wall hangings that weren't hit by floodwaters, but she hasn't put them back up, giving the restaurant a minimalist but tasteful decor.
Kabobs Greek and Lebanese Restaurant
WHERE: 16569 George O'Neal Road
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday
PRICE: Lunch $10-$15; dinner $12-$22
MORE INFO: (225) 412-4366 or Facebook