Amalia Awawda never thought her Palestinian home cooking would reach outside the walls of her Sequim home.
The 37-year-old and mother of three is entering her second week of business at her newly opened restaurant the Sequim Kabob House at 173 W. Washington St. in downtown Sequim.
The restaurant officially opened on Monday, June 19, and serves Middle Eastern cuisine from 10:30 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Saturdays and is closed on Sundays.
When Awawda saw the space formerly known as Fudd’s Fish and Chips up for lease, Awawda said she wanted to take the opportunity to make a business out of her home cooking.
“I saw it for lease and went to my husband and said, ‘Why don’t we give it a try for our food,’” Awawda said. “And he thought it was crazy because I never did restaurants before and I came from my kitchen to a restaurant.”
Awawda and her husband Jim now co-own the restaurant and also manage a Liberty grocery store and Mobil gas station in Port Angeles and a smoke shop in Sequim.
She said the restaurant serves Middle Eastern food made from scratch.
“I want everybody to know what Middle Eastern food is,” Awawda said.
“It’s nice to tell (customers) where we are from.”
Awawda said she was born in Brazil and grew up in Palestine where she lived for 10 years.
She later moved with her parents to America where she lived in California for over 10 years — where her three sons were born — and then in Arizona for two years where the rest of her family currently live.
She has been living in Sequim with her family for six years now.
“We love it here, I love raising my kids here,” Awawda said.
Her three sons: Moe, 12, Adam, 14, and Yussef, 16, all attend schools in Sequim.
She said the food she serves in the restaurant is what she and many of her family and friends eat at home.
“It’s Middle Eastern because all the Middle East: Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine; we all eat almost the same thing.”
She said a lot of Middle Eastern food consists of lamb, beef, chicken, rice, hummus, salads and breads. The food she cooks is inspired by her home Palestinian cooking she learned from her mother and sister.
“I always cook and share with all my friends,” she said.
Her son Adam said he and his family always were telling Awawda she should open a restaurant.
“Every time she would cook we would always tell her, ‘Your food is so good you should open a restaurant!’” Adam said. “But we never thought it would actually get this far.”
The menu offers a variety of Middle Eastern dishes including shawarma — shredded and grilled chicken or beef with spices — lamb, chicken or beef kabobs with vegetables, salads and falafel.
She said many customers are curious about her dishes and she enjoys being able to tell them what each one is.
“People are trying everything,” Awawda said.
“A lot of people know but they ask what certain dishes are and I like telling them what it is.“
She said while she doesn’t have a signature dish yet many people ask her about the falafel — a dish she makes from scratch using ground chickpeas and parsley that she deep fries.
While falafel sparks many customers’ curiosity, she said her favorite dish to eat is the tabouli salad.
“I can live on tabouli and a kabob,” she said.
She describes tabouli salad as a refreshing dish she makes every day made of chopped parsley, tomatoes, onions, dry wheat soaked, and mixed with olive oil, lemon and salt.
“It’s my favorite thing,” she said.
She also makes the hummus she serves with plate entrees every day.
Since the restaurant doors have been open, Awawda said she has been busy with peak lunch and dinner times from 12-2:30 p.m. and 5-7 p.m.
The prices range from $6.50 for items such as the falafel to $19.75 for the Kabob House Supreme, a dish with a combination of grilled lamb, beef and chicken kabob with rice, hummus and salad.
Awawda said she hopes to hire someone to help her cook and serve food and may add more tables for more seating.
She said for now she wants to focus on perfecting the restaurant.
“I want to focus on one thing and make it perfect,” Awawda said.
She said the business might grow to other locations on the peninsula such as Port Angeles but she wants to stay hands-on in the restaurant.
“I want to cook it, I want to season it,” she said.
She said most importantly she wants the restaurant to feel like home.
“I want it to feel like a family restaurant,” Awawda said.