The owner of the newest restaurant on John W. Morrow Parkway in Gainesville knew he couldn’t name the place after his wife again.
That restaurant, Abby’s Mediterranean Grill, still exists in Johns Creek — albeit under different ownership — so he had to come up with something that would stand out without complicating things.“I just kept it simple this time,” said Mediterranean Breeze Bar & Grill owner Omar Shanis.
Mediterranean Breeze Bar & Grill
Hours: 1 p.m. to midnight Sunday-Thursday; 1 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday-SaturdayMore info: https://mediterranean-breeze-bar-and-grill.business.site
When asked why he wanted to bring a Mediterranean restaurant to Gainesville, Shanis, a husband and father of two, said it came down to the time-honored business strategy of supply and demand.
“The lack of healthier options like Mediterranean food,” he said. “We want to add something different and I also wanted to bring some nightlife to this area.”
Mediterranean Breeze Bar & Grill opened Jan. 9, and offers what can be described as a familiar menu to those who like Mediterranean favorites like hummus, pita bread, gyros, wraps and kabobs.
The menu is “made from scratch,” Shanis said. He added that what makes this restaurant different from others like it is the “American touch” that he added to the menu.
The grilled lamb burger, for example, is served with lettuce, tomato, pickle, red onion and pepper jack cheese, combining a very common protein in Mediterranean and Greek food with an American classic.
“It can be more flavorful than beef, it’s a different flavor, more juicier,” Shanis pointed out.
There is also a grilled spicy Buffalo chicken kabob wrap and fried chicken burger, both served with Shanis’ house-made garlic sauce.
The kabobs can differ as well, with shrimp and salmon options being available along with beef and chicken. The sample platter offers beef, chicken and shrimp on one plate, which Shanis said is a good way to get a taste for all three, “especially for a family that comes in and wants to try a variety of our food.”
All kabobs are served with rice, a house salad and grilled vegetables.
The only rice served at Mediterranean Breeze is basmati rice, which is an aromatic slender-grained rice that originates in India. Shanis won’t budge on this ingredient and his reasoning is simple: Only the best for his customers.
“It’s the best rice ever, it’s so light,” he said. “You can eat two servings and not be full."
Still in the kitchen
A native of Jordan, Shanis has been cooking his entire adult life and feels like every meal served at his restaurants — he has owned several in Georgia since arriving 10 years ago — must be served right.
“I want our guests to enjoy food that is made from scratch, and of course it’s me making all of the food,” he said. “It’s not like I just put a menu out and I don’t cook anything. I have to see every plate that comes out of the kitchen to make sure everything looks right.”
That includes the salads, like the Greek salad and fattoush salad or “bread salad,” a Lebanese traditional salad that includes pomegranate vinaigrette dressing and is topped with fried pita to go along with lettuce, tomato, onions and cucumbers.
“I am looking forward to being out of the kitchen; when I feel like the food is done right without me in the kitchen, that’s when I can do that,” Shanis said with a smile.
The restaurant staff is small right now with just three servers, two cooks and a bartender. Just below the Mediterranean Breeze Bar & Grill sign is a banner that reads “Now Open” and “Now Hiring.”
Open past midnight on Friday and Saturdays, Mediterranean Breeze Bar & Grill also offers drinks and hookah service. The bar features a lounge area complete with several TVs for big games.
The restaurant’s opening day coincided with the Georgia Bulldogs winning their second consecutive national championship. Shanis, not necessarily a football fan himself, remembers that night fondly. He recalled a table of four customers turning into a table for six as the game played on a TV above them.
“When I started to think about this location, I wanted to bring to it a place where people can stop and chill,” he said.
And after just a few weeks in business, Shanis is proud to report that there have been repeat customers.
“We have had good feedback so far,” he said.For more information on Mediterranean Breeze, visit the restaurant’s website at https://mediterranean-breeze-bar-and-grill.business.site.