A taste of the Middle East in North Attleboro

Originally published for The Sun Chronicle on Dec. 13, 2016.

Chef Roy Sakr grew up in Lebanon helping his mom in the kitchen — cutting parsley or onions and doing whatever he could to get close to the Lebanese flavors that marked his childhood.

Now, he’s bringing those flavors to North Attleboro — and much to the delight of Lebanese immigrants and other fans of Middle Eastern fare who have flocked to his new restaurant on South Washington Street looking for authentic Lebanese cuisine.

Sakr and family opened Habibi’s Middle Eastern Kitchen three months ago, and said business is only looking up.

“People tell me, ‘We go to bed dreaming of your food and can’t wait until we can come back the next day,’” the 35-year-old owner said.

Some even come from as far as Norwood and Providence for the traditional Middle Eastern flavors, Sakr said, especially since Middle Eastern restaurants are scarce in the area.

“People have been really happy, and that’s my goal,” he said. “My Lebanese customers love the traditional taste — it’s been a long time since we’ve had something like this.”

The restaurant brings a respite from pizza and fast food joints that seem to mark North Attleboro, focusing instead on pita wraps, hot and cold mezza plates, kebab platters, falafel, Lebanese salads and “the best hummus around,” Sakr said.

And vegetarians need not worry — almost half the menu was designed with them in mind.

“My goal was to bring a new taste to New England,” he said.

The venture, however, was not new to him.

Sakr began his journey in the restaurant business when he was just 14 years old, starting out as a waiter and soon serving as a manager of a fine dining restaurant in Lebanon for 11 years.

Soon after, he decided to take on the kitchen, himself, opening another restaurant in Lebanon and spending the last 10 years as a chef.

In between, he traveled to Dubai and Qatar, bringing his Middle Eastern flair to restaurants in other countries before settling down with his wife in North Attleboro five years ago.

Now, his own 4-year-old daughter is helping him in the kitchen, where everything is homemade and prepared fresh daily. The restaurant is run by Sakr and his wife, their parents and his brother-in-law — who Sakr says all “cook with love.”

“That’s the secret ingredient,” he said.

And, it’s a nod to the name of the restaurant, as well — Habibi is an Arabic word meaning, “my love” — an ode to the flavors he grew up discovering in a small Lebanese kitchen.

Habibi’s Middle Eastern Kitchen is located at 11 South Washington St. and operates from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday to Saturday.

The restaurant also provides catering services, take out and delivery.

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