With a fast-casual take on Middle Eastern street food, distinguished by its freshly-baked pita bread, Tahini was eagerly embraced by the Kearny Mesa lunch crowd when the restaurant opened in early 2017 but its roots stretch back to 2013 when it launched at local farmers markets and had a crowd-drawing stint as a gas station pop-up in Pacific Beach. Started by a pair of friends, Harvard Law School grad Osama Shabaik and Mahmoud “Moody” Barkawi, who previously had a career in law enforcement, as a way to explore and share the food culture of their Egyptian and Syrian heritages, Tahini has become so popular that it’s outgrown its original spot and will be moving into a larger adjacent space last inhabited by Ramen Ryoma, which shuttered at the beginning of this year.
Working with Nate Benedetto of Next Wave Commercial on the lease, Shabaik and Barkawi are currently remodeling the unit with the aim of moving in by early October. The business partners, who will be opening a location at UCSD, are planning to continue to expand locally and beyond to Orange County and Los Angeles.
The partners are also passionate about coffee, and will use their former restaurant space to bring more specialty coffee to the Kearny Mesa community. Called Finjan, meaning coffee cup in Arabic, the new cafe will offer all the standard espresso drinks but also specialize in traditional Turkish coffee and other beverages with a Middle Eastern twist. Scheduled to open by the end of 2021, it will also serve an array of Arabic desserts including knafeh, a sweet cheese pastry wrapped in homemade filo dough.
- All Coming Attractions [ESD]