Family from Jordan serves Middle Eastern, Greek cuisine with show

by Elise Van Dam

It all started with a family, a set of recipes and a passion for homestyle food. In 1973, the Azar family moved to the United States from Jordan. After living through four wars, the family decided to move to Spokane in search of a better life.

After moving to the states, Najeeb and Najla Azar bought a 7-Eleven convenience store on Empire Avenue and then purchased the café across from the 7-Eleven. That is where they opened the Azar’s Restaurant in 1980, which at the time was the only Greek, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern restaurant in the Spokane area, owner Katy Azar said.

In 1990, Katy Azar, daughter of Najeeb and Najla Azar, opened another location at 2501 N. Monroe St., which is now the only location in Spokane.

“My mom was a great cook and thought it would be a great idea [to open a Mediterranean restaurant],” Azar said. “And it has done well ever since.”

Like the first restaurant, Azar’s Restaurant on Monroe uses the recipes that Azar’s mother brought to the states.

“We have a unique cuisine,” Azar said. “I cook homestyle meals that are healthy and homemade. There are no preservatives and I only use good oils [such as olive oil]. It satisfies a lot of people’s needs.”

The restaurant has a lunch and dinner menu. The lunch menu consists of a buffet option for $9.95, sandwiches and gyros for $7.95, soups for $4.95 and salads for around $10. The gyros are the most popular lunch item.

There are two different options, the gyro tahini which consists of lightly seasoned beef and lamb meat with tomatoes, sesame seed, lemon and garlic. The other option, gyros tsatziki, consists of the beef and lamb meat with tomatoes, lettuce, yogurt, cucumber and garlic sauce.

“I love the gyro with tahini because they use simple and good quality ingredients,” said senior Eric Mahaney.

Like the lunch menu, the dinner menu also includes sandwiches, gyros, soups and salads but adds the dinner combination plates for around $15. These plates consist of a variety of options including gyros, hummus, falafel and babajanuj.

“I love all of the food,” Azar said. “A combination plate along with a Greek salad is great.”

The menu provides vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options, also.

Along with homemade, quality food, Azar’s also provides a belly dancing show on Friday nights from 6:45 to 8:45 p.m. where an experienced dancer comes in and performs live traditional belly dances.

“We decided to do it for a cultural experience,” Azar said. “It’s a dinner and a show and it’s all authentic.”

Contact Elise Van Dam at evandam13@my.whitworth.edu.

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