The seemingly cursed address of 19 S. Court Street has seen two businesses during the past couple of years, both specializing in tea, fail to generate buzz. Habibi’s, which opened its doors Feb. 18, appears to have the upper-hand for breaking the curse. Maybe it’s the unique food (a mix of American and Mediterranean cuisine). Maybe it’s the affordable prices. Either way, a strong indicator of longevity is the line that nearly stretches out the door at lunchtime.
A restaurant with a line that stretches out the door that isn’t Chipotle? Unbelievable, but true.
“Habibi’s” is derived from the Arabic word for “my dear,” and customers are greeted with festive décor as soon as they walk through the door. The television at the front remains on the Travel Channel, showcasing brave souls searching for the best eateries around the globe. The walls are painted beige and green, a recurring color theme throughout the restaurant. The kitchen is placed in the middle of the space, nearly taking up an entire wall as the main attraction.
The restaurant feels like a Mediterranean diner, with decorations consisting of Romanesque columns. One wall has a sign that reads, “When life gives you chickpeas, make hummus,” which is a popular food served on a daily basis to hungry customers.
Rachel Clark, a local artist who painted the restaurant, said the the inspiration for the murals came from the owners.
“The owners wanted to bring Lebanese images to Athens,” she explained.
Students are definitely seeing these images.
Brittainy Erby, a senior majoring in biology, took her adventurous palate to Habibi’s as both a customer and employee .
“There’s a nice atmosphere here, a very chill atmosphere, even though it’s busy often,”Erby said.
Originally, the restaurant planned to stay open and cater to the late night crowds, but the influx of customers during the day impelled different hours. The restaurant is currently open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. The times probably won’t change any time soon, as Erby explained that it’s difficult for the cooking staff to stay up much later.
When it comes to the food, Erby echoes the sentiments of many customers: she’s never had anything like it before in Athens. The menu is simple enough, full of traditional Mediterranean foods such as falafel, hummus and kabobs featuring lamb, beef and chicken wrapped in pita breads. Most meals are complimented with a simple order of fries or rice.
A popular menu item is the Chicken Shawarma: chicken sandwiched in pita bread with a healthy serving of pickles and sauce spiced with garlic.
Rashida Dortch, a junior majoring in finance and a first time customer at Habibi’s, ordered the Shawarma simply because of the name and found a new favorite food.
“I thought it was delicious,” Dortch said.
The prices are also a hit for customers. With nothing on the menu costing more than $10, the restaurant offers an affordable deviation from the regular choices of subs, burritos or fast food. A delivery service is available so that the taste of Habibi’s can reach customers around the city.
For the less adventurous food lovers, Habibi’s menu also offers recognizable American foods such as chili dogs, grilled cheese and chicken nuggets.
But to visit Habibi’s is to be adventurous. With nothing else like it on Court Street, this affordable gem is bound to thrive as a favorite.
Grab a napkin, habibi, and try something new.
Send us (and Habibi’s) all the hummus love on Twitter or in the comments!