Michelle and Steve Sabo were moving their son Peter into Oberlin
College in Ohio when, tired of pizza and fast food, they checked the
phone book and drove 20 minutes to Aladdin's Eatery.
Four years later, after countless Aladdin's meals and takeout sacks on
their trips to visit Peter and attend his soccer matches, they
realized that graduation would end the healthy food fest. So they
brought Aladdin's home.
"I said, 'Why don't we try one in South Bend?' " recalls Michelle, a
South Bend native. "I've always been health-conscious and tried not to
eat a lot of meat. I would love to be able to bring this to the
community -- a healthier option."
She sold the initially reluctant franchiser, Fady Chamoun, on Michiana
for the first Indiana expansion of his Cleveland-based company that
has some 30 stores, mostly in Ohio and Pennsylvania with two each in
Washington, D.C., and Raleigh, N.C.
The restaurant, which opened last month on University Park Drive,
seats about 75 in the main dining room and 12 to 20 in a banquet room
for private parties. A patio will hold about 18 people outdoors in
"This has always been a dream of mine," she says. "I'm Greek. I love
Greek cuisine. I always thought my ideal would be to open an authentic
Greek restaurant. I'm not a chef."
Lebanese cuisine was close enough when it came with Aladdin's
experience and support, says Michelle, who took about eight weeks'
training in Cleveland and sent her general manager and assistant
manager for a month each. The restaurant employs about 30 people.
"They're very hands-on," she says. "Our servers have to pass a
rigorous test. They have to learn everything on these menus -- every
ingredient, what you can change. They have to memorize all our cakes
The hummus is made from scratch; the chickpeas are soaked for 12
hours. It's made in a hummus grinder that the restaurant's cooks first
thought was a cement mixer. Jasmine Bakery, an Aladdin's subsidiary,
supplies the tortilla-thin pita and the lavish desserts.
The menu features 40 vegetarian or vegan items and other
health-focused options, including a children's menu.
"You can get grilled chicken and rice and fruit and all the healthy
options for the children," says Michelle, who remembers those early
soccer-sideline meals. "You didn't have that heavy feeling. After we
ate, we just felt good."
Peter graduated in May with an environmental science degree. Michelle,
who helped with office work in her husband's family AK Industries in
Plymouth, is launching a new career when many of her peers are
"Everybody else is talking about their retirement," she says. "I think
it's the right time for me to do something like this. This is my new
baby. It's my dream come true."
Tribune Business Weekly