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mama restaurant group

Expansion continues

Wassef and Racha Haroun may not have realized they were starting a family when they opened mamnoon on Capitol Hill in 2012, but that is what happened. They now have a family of restaurants, a family of team members, a local community family, and an international family.

Street eats is the latest concept, opened in February 2023. It takes over the anar ("pomegranate") space in the downtown/South Lake Union area of Seattle. Anar opened in 2016 and focused on vegan and gluten free fare, a particular interest of Racha's. "We went strong for a few years, but ultimately I think people felt a little constrained by the menu," says Ángela Ortez-Zarate, Culinary & Operational Manager for mamnoon street and street eats. "I came on two years ago to help see what could be in this space. Managing both places helped me see what was needed. We opened the menu, still offering some of our classic vegan options and taking the opportunity to showcase a variety of street foods."

Like most of their concepts, new derives from something they've discovered at existing locations. "We noticed at mamnoon street that people really wanted variety and the ability to customize their meals," recalls Ángela. "We offered to add 'anything to anything' and the customers really liked it. It became too much for one space and we realized the customization piece needed to find its own home." Street eats offers street classics as well as the ability to build your own bowl. Everything is made in house, from scratch. There are between 19-24 sauces used at the restaurants.

Nicco Muratone, mama group Executive Chef, explains, "The culinary philosophy of the group has always been a modern union of Middle Eastern food; not fusion, but taking amazing flavors and recipes from each cuisine and making them approachable for guests. Using house made pita bread and making a 'taco' sounds modern, but our street eats shawarminis (photo) are an homage to the cultural exchange that occurred when Levantine immigrants settled in Mexico in the 1800s. We get the best ingredients we can to make the best food. People think farm-to-table is this new concept, but it's how people always used to eat. You eat what you have when you have it. To have food during the winter, people had to preserve foods from warmer months. We talk about 'mouneh' which means 'preserve' in Arabic. A book I use called Mouneh is 600 pages of ways to preserve food. We make things that haven't been made in ages, and never in this city."

Ángela adds, "We preserve fruits in summer for desserts in winter. We pickle, dry, ferment, even make tinctures. Mamnoon has probably 50-75 preserved items, and all our restaurants have deep larders. We use ingredients from the kitchen to influence our cocktails as well."

Each concept looks at the cuisine in a different way. Mamnoon opened in 2012. It grew out of Racha and Wassef's enjoyment of hosting dinner parties for large groups in their home. Wassef was born in Syria and lived in Beirut before moving to the US. Racha's father is Syrian and mother Iranian; she was born in London, moved to Syria, and immigrated with her family to the U.S. in 1982. They met at college in Texas, then Wassef became an engineer at Microsoft. They settled in Seattle and opened mamnoon as a sort of extension of their dining room, creating an experience that had not existed in Seattle. Mamnoon's dining room is in the back and offers an upscale, unfussy dining experience. The front window is where people can stop by for Lebanese street food: mezze, falafel. The food was so popular, it led to their second place, mamnoon street. "The opportunity presented itself in 2016 in the downtown/South Lake Union area to have two spaces. We opened mamnoon street and anar at the same time," says Ángela.

mbar also opened in 2016 and grew out of the realization that many mamnoon guests enjoyed the social and bar experience and would like to have a bigger expression of it available all the time. "We offered Levantine-inspired cocktails like Old Beirut which is similar to an Old Fashioned but instead of simple syrup, we use fig syrup," says Nicco. "Mbar is our social experiment. People can go for drinks and snacks, cocktails at the bar, or a full dinner experience."

Manna ("the source") came next and was born from the pandemic. Hot and cold drinks, and casual food come out of their commissary kitchen, and it is also the retail showcase for Mamnoon Fine Foods (photo). "Wassef and Racha wanted to get their products in grocery stores," notes Nicco. "During the pandemic they used mamnoon's space and equipment to make it happen. Since we make everything in-house, it's very fresh. Grocery stores get us in front of a larger audience and increases awareness of our brand. We're now in about 40 stores including Metropolitan Market, Whole Foods in Washington and Oregon, all PCCs, Cone & Steiner, Ken's Markets.

In 2022, hanoon opened in Kirkland and is an amalgamation of what they've learned from their other restaurants. It is a more casual cousin of mamnoon with an airy café vibe by day. The front window offers shawarma, falafel, za'atar. Lunch, dinner, happy hour are available in the dining room. They also offer brunch on Saturdays and Sundays. "We started with the window only because the dining room wasn't finished. People now know it's not just a take-away spot. Brunch is doing very well at this location," says Nicco.

Community is a huge part of mama restaurant group, from how team members are treated, food and beverage are used to cross boundaries, guests are treated, the local and international communities are supported. "Recently we sent $10,000 to Syria due to the earthquake and we're now doing a matching challenge at the restaurants and online," says Nicco. Ángela adds, "Wassef and Racha walk the walk."

Nicco says, "The hallmark of what we do is offer delicious food that you can feel good about eating. It's indulgence with a side of nutrition!"

Connie Adams/March 2023

Click here to read Ángela's bio.

Click here to read Nicco's bio.

1508 Melrose Ave
Seattle, WA 98122

mamnoon street
2020 6th Ave
Seattle, WA 98121

400 Fairview Ave N, 14th Fl
Seattle, WA 98109

446 Terry Ave N
Seattle, WA 98109

12670 120th Ave NE, Ste 166
Kirkland, WA 98034                                                 Nicco and Ángela

street eats
2040 6th Ave (off 6th, between buildings)
Seattle, WA 98121
206-327-9121 ("nadi" means "club")

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