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IBBY’S FALAFEL: Celebrating 18 Years of Good Food

by Karen Adams E

ighteen years ago, Adnan Kwara opened Ibby’s Falafel in 1996 and named it after his infant son, Ibrahim. That son, nicknamed Ibby, is 19 now, and the award-winning restaurant has grown just as much.

Kwara, who was born in Damascus, Syria, and grew up in New York, offers authentic Mid- dle Eastern cuisine that is known for its excellence. His falafel, made from an old family recipe, has been called “a New Jersey legend” and “the falafel that made falafel famous” by various publications. Kwara, 44, learned to cook traditional Middle Eastern dishes, such as tabouli and baba ghanoush as well as falafel, with his mother, father and other relatives throughout his childhood. “I loved the food industry and learned it all at a young age,” he says. “So it made sense to start my own business when I had a family of my own.” His family includes his wife, Amal, and, besides Ibby, chil- dren Zeynab, Yousef and Mariam.

16 Hudson County

Customers also appreciate the menu items that fit their dietary needs as well, Kwara says. He has many regular vegan and vegetarian visitors, and also some who prefer halal meat. Halal meat, he explains, is that which is slaughtered according to Islamic law. Similar to kosher guidelines, halal law follows a humane way of raising the animals, feeding them a clean diet and minimizing their suffering. Halal meats are high-quality and appropri- ate for anyone to eat, whether they follow halal guidelines or not, says Kwara, who began offering it in 2010.

“We listened to what our cus- tomers demanded , and we wanted to offer it to the com- munity,” he explains. “Halal meats are very expensive but keep our customers coming back. We pride ourselves on the consistency of our reci- pes, especially the falafel.” His falafel has been voted Best Falafel in New Jersey by New Jersey Monthly magazine five years in a row, since 2009, and this year’s Reader’s Choice Best Restaurant award was es- pecially gratifying. “I am so happy that our commitment, dedication and hard work are paying off, and here we are 18 years later,” Kwara says. “Every day we offer consis- tently good food. We never scrimp on quality for our cus- tomers. Even if the prices of ingredients [such as tomatoes or eggplant] go up, the recipes contain the same amount and our own prices stay reasonable and do not change. This is very important for quality.” The restaurant is open every day of the year, with one half-day on Thanksgiv- ing.

The awards are wonderful, Kwara says, but he is just as proud of the res- taurant’s part in revitalizing downtown Jersey City. As one of the original busi- ness owners during the early days of Jersey City’s rebirth, he has seen the transformation from the beginning. “That’s great, and it makes us a big

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