Sometimes you just have to wait for the right moment, and to the owner of Kabab Village in Fort Myers, timing was everything.
When Amjad Kasem, a Palestinian immigrant from Jerusalem, came to Fort Myers in 1990 he wanted to open a restaurant showcasing the food he had grown up with, but his new city was still going through growing pains and the demand for more exotic cuisine was not as high.
Kasem kept his ear to the ground as the city grew and began hearing requests for exactly the kind of food he was hoping to serve. In late 2013, he finally opened Kabab Village, making his long-time goal a reality.
“They wished there was a Mediterranean restaurant in town and nobody did it, so I said I’ve got to open one,” said Kasem. “I opened one, and thank God, it has succeeded.”
The restaurateur describes his home growing up as a five-star restaurant, with many in the house possessing a gift for cooking. The food served at Kabab Village today is built on those family recipes he learned while preparing food with his parents. According to Kasem, the key to the restaurant’s flavor is found in the authenticity of its ingredients. All the spices used to flavor the dishes are imported from Jerusalem and all meat is Halal, or prepared in accordance with Islamic custom.
“The herbs, and the spices, some people get them from anywhere and they dry out. We pack them very well and get them from [Jerusalem]. They make the food taste so well.” Kasem said.
A mixed kabob grill is one of the restaurant’s signature dishes, featuring three skewers, chicken, lamb, and beef, along with vegetables, well-seasoned and grilled over an open flame. The plate also comes with a side of basmati rice, salad, and an eggplant-based dip called baba ghanouj, which pairs well with the restaurant’s homemade pita bread.
Kabab Village also has popular vegetarian options, featuring a plate that includes hummus, baba ghanouj, tabbouleh salad, falafel, and labneh cheese which is made in-house.
The special preparations also extend to beverages as the restaurant offers its own custom blend of Arabic/Turkish coffee and a hot mint tea Kasem insists is the best in the area. The highlight however, according to Kasem, is a flower-based tea from Jerusalem.
“When it comes to drinks our number one drink, and we sell the hell out of it every day, is hibiscus tea,” said Kasem.
The restaurant also offers a nice assortment of desserts, from items you would expect like baklava, to more exotic fare like those base of fresh kunafa cheese.
Kasem said that waiting for the area to gain a taste for Mediterranean cuisine was the right move, as he has seen steady business built around a diverse crowd from all over Southwest Florida looking for a different dining experience, almost since the day the doors opened.
“Usually things start low and then go up as people learn about the business,” said Kasem. “Thank God, believe it or not, but the first week we started very, very busy. We’ve kept that busy since day one. One of the reasons is because our food, it’s not a normal restaurant like tacos or burgers.”
IF YOU GO
4805 S. Cleveland Ave, Fort Myers
House: 10 a.m.-Midnight daily
Outdoor seating pet friendly
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