Published Tue, Feb 19, 2013 2:38 am Dateline
An Athens restaurant is hoping to bring a new flavor to a Court Street location that has cycled through five business changes in the last two years.
The building at 19 South Court St. has been the home of a dance club, barbeque restaurant and two other shops in recent years. Now, the smell of freshly cut lamb, hummus and burgers billows through the new Mediterranean restaurant, Habibis.
Two Ohio University graduate students opened the restaurant Monday, welcoming customers and giving out free food samples from their menu.
Both owners of the new restaurant are originally from Lebanon, where they say they went to high school together. When the best friends made their way to Athens for graduate school, they said it wasn't long before they decided to open a business and make Athens their permanent home.
"We were waiting for an opportunity and when we heard that this [location] was available, we jumped on it," said Habibis co-owner Danny Mercurio.
"Going to school here, the community was great and I loved my stay in Athens," said Samer Daou, co-owner of Habibis. "Now, it's a way for me to give back to Athens and share the same thing they shared with me."
The two said their love for Athens and for cooking food sparked the idea for the restaurant's name.
"In Mediterranean culture, we express our passion through cooking, sharing and feeding. Habibi means 'my dear beloved' so we tried to combine this passion with the food," said Daou.
So far, customers say they like the new flavor on Court Street.
"I had the lamb and beef gyro, and it was huge. So much food, I couldn't finish it all. It was great," said Vicky Seefeldt West, who ate at the restaurant on Monday.
The owners say they are still discussing possible rennovations to the restaurant basement, and a grand opening in the future.