Phoenician Is A Hidden Gem Amongst the Chains

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phoenecian_cafeThe Phoenician Café, located within walking distance of the St. Ambrose University, serves authentic, made-to-order, Lebanese cuisine where any item on the menu costs no more than $10. The family-owned café, located at 1208 West Locust, has held that location for two years now. The owners Samar Halabi and her husband Dani have been with the restaurant for five years now.The café thrived in the very beginning, “When we first opened we had a great response for the 1st year and a half. Those who have heard of our business become repeat customers. Our loyal customers are our family, because we do not have family here,” Dani Halabi, co-owner, said.The response from the restaurant patrons is not exactly a surprise to the Dani, “ The faculty at St. Ambrose comes
more often than the students come in,” Halabi said.The students that do frequent their business have been coming back to the café again and again, “The food is made to order there. They use flavor and spices that you do not get in American cuisine. I think it is the best food in the Quad-Cities,” Nathaniel Krell, SAU student, said.  “It is not run by a corporation or by a chain.”Dani Halabi understands the hesitations the public has about the type of food they offer, but refuses to conform to the primary tastes of the masses.
“People are still scared. If I Americanize my menu, I’d make 4 or 5 times better business than now, but I don’t want to do that. We try to run our business here as authentic as possible. We try to bring the Middle East [taste] to this area. In the Quad Cities it has taken a lot longer for people to hear about us. However, once they taste the food, they come back,” Halabi said.
The café had very modest beginnings getting its start in 2002 in a little shop in Bettendorf, Iowa. The overall stress of running their business for these past five years is becoming more present each day.
“We don’t get a paycheck. Everything we make we have to put it back into this place to keep it alive. Sometimes we have to dig into our savings account to pay for the rent, electricity, and gas. In this location everything [costs] is tripled from when we were in Bettendorf,” Halabi said.
The thought of closing has crossed their minds from time to time, but ultimately his wife, Samar, has the final word on the matter.
“My wife wants to keep it running. I don’t. My wife does hold more of the stocks in the business. In my new business [International Canine Security Inc.] I am traveling more. I am gone a month or two at a time and come back. It’s putting a lot of pressure on my wife and our 2 year-old son,” he said.
The Phoenician Café is running and going strong. Any other course of action is entirely up to the owners,
“It’s been 5 years as Phoenician Café Inc., I want to do authentic Lebanese cuisine until retire, sell, or give up,” Halabi said.

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