How two brothers transformed the family’s struggling San Bruno market into a thriving Mediterranean restaurant ready to open its second restaurant

Mazra San Bruno will temporarily close its doors on March 24 to undergo renovations, including bringing the large outdoor charcoal grill indoors to match Mazra’s new location in Redwood City. Courtesy of Mazra. Credit: EMILIE DE

Jordan Makableh was 20 and attending community college when his brother Saif returned from working in restaurants in Australia with the idea of ​​turning their father’s grocery store into a restaurant.

“I was like, ‘Yo, he’s talking about this, I’m talking about this. Let’s do it,” Jordan said.

A year after opening Mazra in San Bruno, the brothers’ restaurant ranked second on Yelp’s Top 100 Places to Eat, and Mazra was on the national list again this year, at No. 23. second location of their Mediterranean restaurant in Redwood City on April 2, an opening delayed since last summer due to various regulatory agencies having to grant approval for Mazra’s indoor charcoal grill.

This delay gives a whole new meaning to Mazra’s slogan: “Take it easy, Habibi – good food takes time.” »

“We learned why they don’t do that here,” Jordan said with a laugh, referring to the indoor charcoal grill.

Unique to Mazra Redwood City, there is a coffee bar offering non-alcoholic drinks like Turkish coffee and Lebanese mocktails. Courtesy of Mazra.

The San Bruno location will temporarily close on March 24 to undergo renovations, and the charcoal grill will be brought indoors to match the one in Redwood City.

“As soon as Redwood City opened, the bulldozers started rolling in and literally demolished a lot of the building,” Saif said. “I bite my tongue when I say this, but the contractors tell me six to eight months (to complete the work).”

Mazra opened on March 26, 2020 in San Bruno and the concept was inspired by Saif’s time working in restaurants in Australia.

“When I was in Australia, I saw some of these fast-casual concepts from the Middle East,” he said. “They give you really high quality ingredients and plates, but you pick them up like counter service. So it was a super casual environment, but without casual food.

Mazra’s motto, “Take it easy, Habibi,” is displayed along a wall at its soon-to-open Redwood City location. Courtesy of Mazra.

In 2005, Saif and Jordan’s father opened Green Valley Market in San Bruno, a grocery store selling halal meats, hot takeout meals, and Middle Eastern and Mediterranean groceries. But in 2012, business was not good, Saif said. His father’s solution was to rent the entire building and get out of the business, but Saif wanted to revive the store and turn it into a Middle Eastern fast-casual concept. Saif would develop the recipes and his brother would take care of the business side.

“My father was all for it,” Saif said. “He placed a lot of trust in us.”

Saif began finding ways to update his parents’ recipes from Green Valley Market, making small changes like using Persian cucumbers instead of English ones, labneh instead of yogurt, and sourcing ingredients locally. , which made a huge difference in taste and quality.

“One thing I remember (about Green Valley Market) that always irritated me was these three-compartment takeout boxes where you put rice and meat, but you also put your salad in there cold and hummus,” he said. “It would steam the hummus and salad, and I remember saying, ‘I could create a much better version of how to serve this food.’ » The taste was there, but so much was missing.

Jordan Makableh helps a customer at Mazra San Bruno. Photo by Devin Roberts. Credit: DEVIN ROBERTS

Mazra translates to “farm” in Arabic, and the brothers aim to use produce grown locally in Mazra. The garlic comes from Gilroy, the artichokes from Calistoga, the lettuce from Salinas and the tomatoes from Bolinas, Saif said. Learning how to store produce properly has also made a big difference; for example, the brothers learned on TikTok that tomatoes should be stored at room temperature.

“It’s so much better,” Saif said.

The outdoor patio space at Mazra Redwood City will feature heat lamps and outdoor dining. Courtesy of Mazra.

The changes paid off: the brothers transformed a failing business into a restaurant that has since been listed among the top 100 places to eat on Yelp twice in four years. While Mazra is known for its made-to-order wood-fired meats, Yelp cites the restaurant’s variety of vegetarian options as one of the reasons for its high ranking. Mazra’s street wraps, whole cauliflower, falafel mezze samplers, and halloumi cheese rolls are just a few of its vegetarian offerings.

“We never wanted to create vegan or vegetarian dishes like imitated meat,” Saif said. “We thought vegetables were so good on their own that there was no reason to turn them into anything else.”

Mazra offers wood-fired kababs with chicken, beef, lamb, oyster mushrooms, shrimp and octopus. Courtesy of Mazra. Credit: EMILIE DE

In addition to being inclusive for vegetarians, Saif said much of Mazra’s menu is also gluten-free.

“You could literally come in, have six different allergies, and I promise you we’ll still have several items on our menu that will continue and satisfy you,” Jordan said.

“The only thing people can’t come to our restaurant is if they are allergic to garlic,” Saif added. “Everything has garlic.”

Although the new location will feature a nearly identical menu to San Bruno’s (they will continue to offer free tea service and allow customers to bring their own alcohol), there will be some new additions, including a coffee bar. The brothers are introducing new non-alcoholic drinks like Turkish coffee and Lebanese mocktails, including fruit-based cocktails with ashta cream.

Mazra Redwood City, which opens April 2, will have outdoor seating. Courtesy of Mazra.

“When we were going to the Middle East, the street vendors were offering these really cool Lebanese mocktails – and they’re basically fruit shakes with fruit, ashta, pistachios and honey – and it’s so something nostalgic thing,” says Saif. “When you eat shawarma, it’s almost normal that you have these shakes with it.”

The Redwood City location will be “as bright as possible,” Saif said, adding that they removed half of the roof to create a glass ceiling.

“We wanted to bring in as much natural light so we could grow our plants there and still provide that openness that San Bruno offers,” he said.

Mazra, 2021 Broadway, Redwood City; 650-503-8440. Instagram: @eatmazra.

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