ITHACA, N.Y. — Grilled lamb, beef, and chicken are the latest smells to float through the Ithaca Commons following the opening of a new Mediterranean Halal food stand nearly three weeks ago.
Owner Galal Hassanien’s stand, the Adam Grill, will be serving up gyros, kebabs, rice bowls, falafel and other dishes six days a week, including during late night hours on the weekends. It’s located toward the east end of the Commons in front of the Downtown Visitor Center.
Hassanien said he moved to Ithaca from Brooklyn about four months ago to start a better life with his family: his wife Souad Azzouay and their two children Omayma and Adam, for whom the stand is named after. Hassanien was an Uber driver in Brooklyn before making the move and his wife’s family — who own Casablanca Pizza and the Commons Kitchen downtown — suggested that they make the five-hour move.
“We heard about Ithaca. It’s an nice city, good for business,” he said. “And I just figured out, this is the business, the right one to do.”
So he said he applied for permits through the city, health department and fire department before he was approved to set up shop.
“People here are very polite, not like Brooklyn, very rough and tough,” he said. “It’s a very nice environment here, like I said before. People here are very polite. You can put a line under polite. In New York City, they’re very tough, people are very mean.”
Since launching about three weeks ago, Hassanien has opened Monday – Saturday at 11 a.m. and usually stays open through late lunch or early dinner hours. On weekends, he’s open from 11 a.m. until about 7 p.m., when he closes the cart down, cleans it, and then opens up again from about 9 p.m. – 2 a.m. And while he plans to be closed on Sundays, he said customers still may find him on the Commons during his only day off if the weather is good enough.
He said he’s gathered a regular crew of lunch time customers over the past three weeks, along with late night college students. On a sunny Tuesday afternoon, two people ordered up meals within less than 10 minutes.
“People in Ithaca, they love falafel. People in Ithaca love chicken over rice, lamb,” he said. “It’s like New York City style. They know that.”
The price point is also something he said people are love with. Most of his menu items start at about $6 and aren’t over about $9, a relief from nearby restaurants that charge more money for meals to cover higher overhead costs.
Hassanien said that with the long hours he invests in the cart and with continued regular customers, he’ll be able to stay open year round.
Featured photo: Galal Hassanien poses with his wife Souad Azzouay in front of their Mediterranean Halal food cart in the Ithaca Commons.