Home Money Habibi brings new business to Athens

Habibi brings new business to Athens

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Come for the platters, stay for the baklava.

A new restaurant opened on Court Street Friday, led by two entrepreneurs trying to fill a missing niche in Athens and bring a new flavor uptown.

Samer Daou, who graduated with a Master of Financial Economics from Ohio University, opened Habibi’s with longtime friend Danny Mercurio. The new business partners grew up in the same town of Lebanon, Ohio. Mercurio attended graduate school at the University of Toledo, but often visited Daou in Athens. The business partners decided to name the restaurant Habibi, the Arabic word for “my beloved.”

“So far it has been amazing,” Daou said. “The feedback has been great, there has been a positive energy, and everyone is really excited. It is more than we even expected.”

The location previously housed the Dragon Cup, an Asian teahouse, and GG’s Bubble Tea.[JPR1]

The owners worked with local builders, carpenters, electricians and artists to open the new restaurant. The street level storefront supports a fully functioning seated restaurant with take-out and delivery service.

“We are bringing a new flavor to Athens – more variety,” Daou said. “And people have really appreciated that.”

The business owners eventually hope to continue renovating the basement of the restaurant into a lounge area, allowing customers to enjoy a meal in a traditional Mediterranean setting.

“I want to turn the downstairs area into a cozy, sit down restaurant,” Daou said. “We have already had a great start but I want to keep adding and keep making people more happy.”

The menu features many healthy options, including many vegetarian dishes, in addition to inexpensive gyros and sandwiches, combining Mediterranean cuisine with some American cuisine for less adventurous diners. The opening of the restaurant helped Daou and Mercurio realize the dream of owning a restaurant.

“When people leave with a smile, that is when we know we did a good job,” Daou said. “The feedback has been amazing, and we are extremely thankful.”

The owners know the budget restraints of a college student and hope to provide hungry Bobcats the biggest portion for the smallest price, planning to keep the price of a sandwich or gyro under $6 and the price of a generous platter under $9. All dishes will be made from scratch, including the delicious sweet and flaky baklava Daou insisted I try and give my highest recommendation.

Habibi’s also plans to stay open until 3 a.m. on the weekends, Thursday through Saturday nights, hoping to capitalize on the late-night food rush after the bars close on Court Street.

“The belly is the way though the heart,” Daou said. “And this is just the beginning.”

 

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