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Finding Fourth Street

Finding Fourth Street

March 25, 2019

“Crispy on the outside, and fluffy on the inside,” Elias explained, “That is the perfect falafel which we make fresh here every day at Julie’s Hummus Bar.”

Making this Middle Eastern dish to perfection is no simple task. An old family recipe paired with some trial and error has led to the creation of Elias’s perfect falafel. The secret, you might question?

If you aren’t tied in by blood, it is extremely unlikely that anyone will be cracking the code for the recipe anytime soon. This recipe is one which Elias shares with his father, and now his wife’s family.

Peter prepared for the lunch rush. In the back, Elias is preparing the famous falafel.

“Employees do all the preparations. They cut tomatoes and the cucumbers… that kind of stuff. My dad and I come in and mix all the right ingredients in the right amounts together.  It’s a family recipe and we don’t want it to leak out there.”

This new San Rafael restaurant has family built into its roots. Elias and Julie Haddad married this past July and soon after, opened Julie’s Hummus Bar with their fathers. Sitting in the restaurant talking to Elias and his father-in-law, introduced as Peter, in the calm after the storm of the lunch rush revealed the great passion they have for the business. Peter described the story of the wedding and the creation of the restaurant.

“I had been in the gas station business since 1989 and I wanted to do something different in life, something exciting and adventurous. I would never do it without someone with experience though. I found out Elias had been in the restaurant business for many years, so I went up to him one day and said, ‘let’s open a restaurant’. And we did!”

Elias’s father had started in the restaurant business as a young man and has opened multiple restaurants in the past forty years. Elias grew up working in those restaurants learning the basics of customer service, sanitation, work ethic, inventory management and more.

“I used what I learned working in my father’s restaurants to be able to create my own. This one is special. I am going into it with my wife, not working for my father or somebody else. We are a partnership. We are creating our future.”

The combination of experience, passion, and motivation has led to the immediate success they have experienced. Three hundred people attended the celebration of Julie’s opening. Elias’s father-in-law had told everyone who came into the gas station that the new restaurant was opening soon. He spread the word of his new restaurant during the months of renovation which led up to the grand opening day. The doors opened with the official cutting of the ribbon, followed by live music, belly dancers, and food tasting for all three hundred guests.

“Most people make the mistake of opening and waiting for people to come. Then it can take two to three years to have what we have now. This is a go-get-it kind of situation. You make it possible.”

Every day, local produce is brought to Julie’s Hummus Bar, because fresh and organic foods are part of what make this Mediterranean restaurant special.

Julie’s Hummus Bar is unique. It’s not limited to hummus. It serves a variety of different Middle Eastern foods, all made from scratch. For the hummus alone they use 25-pound bags of chickpeas which are soaked overnight in water to soften them. In the morning they are ground up to be mixed with fresh ingredients for falafels. Elias’ pride shone through when speaking of his falafel. “It’s really a great joy to be serving these traditional foods,” Elias beamed. “I even get people who come from the Middle East and they are like, ‘this is the closest we have had since we left home.’ I get many compliments. It’s so great that I can give them the ‘back-home’ flavor.”

The shop’s uniqueness spreads into the variety offered on the menu, which includes ten different flavors of hummus, various wraps, and numerous specialty salads. I sampled the falafels to have any right to even talk about Julie’s Hummus Shop, and I supplemented them with three different flavors of hummus: garlic, pine nut, and spicy. The falafels are served with tabbouleh and the hummus is served with pita bread. After having tried this mouth-watering specialty from various food trucks and restaurants, Elias has truly created an outstanding falafel, just as he said, crispy on the outside, fluffy and light on the inside.

Elias also offers another specialty:  halal meat. This refers to meat which is permissible by Islamic law due to the way in which it is processed and prepared. The animals are not killed using machines, but instead by a man who praises God before killing the animal in an instantaneous humane fashion. “Because of this, we can attract another kind of customer since there are not very many places that serve this meat.”

Although there are so many distinctive foods offered at Julie’s Hummus Bar, for the cooks, the majority of menu items are ones that must be prepared every single day.

“Do you ever get bored with the repetition of making the same dishes the same way every day?” I asked.

“If you love what you’re doing it’s always exciting. I don’t ever get bored cooking the same things. I’ve been in this business for over 17 years. I love it. It’s all been Mediterranean foods and I am in my comfort zone. And if I had the choice, which I do, I eat this food every day. It is my comfort food that I grew up with. Not hamburgers like you guys. Falafels, hummus, tabbouleh, pita bread. This is it for me.”

I looked over towards the counter to see a slight smile creep along Julie’s face. Throughout the interview, she had been tending to a few customers and occasionally coming over to listen to her husband share their story with me. Their story, of a husband and wife creating a life together and bringing together their passions for the culinary world and their country into one, in a San Rafael restaurant, with the perfect falafel.

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