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Habibi, the Lebanese eatery, Closes

Habibi Closes (Photo: QueensPost)

Aug. 6, 2012 By Christian Murray

Habibi, the Lebanese eatery located on the corner of 43rd Street and 43rd Ave., has closed.

The store, which was open for 12 months, was run by Mehdi Osman and served items such as chicken and beef shawarma, falafel rolls and hummus that were cooked by Osman’s wife, an experienced chef.  It also sold Lebanese staples—from breads to nuts.

The eatery was located at the same spot as where El Shater operated until it closed a little over a year ago. Osman was a member of the family that ran El Shater until all the brothers went their separate ways.

Osman’s older brother, Ahmad, opened “Souk El Shater” at 43-03 Queens Blvd. last August. That Lebanese eatery is still in operation.

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51 Comments

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EMY

— First of all I apologize for my grammar. After 10 years still having trouble.

Sunnyside residential rents are high but store rents are unacceptable.

I am sure only reason Habibi couln’t make it because of rent.

For sometimes now, I was cheking some rents on Queens Blvd.

For example,

Current Queens Blvd and 44 street corner Yogurt place will pay $ 4000 rent to sell yogurt. I am wondering how long they will survive.

Again on Queens Blvd between 44 and 45 street Pink Something bakery $ 3000 rent, does anyone believe he will make it to second year? Especially with those plastic flowers on the table. Also it is obvious that baker has very limited baking skill.

The store on Queens Blvd, between 43 and 44 street used to be Healthy food store’s rent as someone told me goes around $ 8000. Who is crazy enough to open any business there? Seriously what can you sell to make $ 8000 rent.

There is this small cafe on 49 street between Skillman and 43 Avenue called Marlene and I belive her rents almost $ 2000. Such a small space , how will make this rent, by putting alot of chairs that you cannot pass without touching someone.

Only decent rents I heard on Skillman Avenue but this time other way around Restaurants are crazy there. This Saffron restaurant we went there 2 people and very simple dinner even we took our own drink, payed almost $100. Again no drink in this price, I just paid cork money. Portions were very very small we end up ordering second plates ( not exactly plate, but toy like small pots) and no desert or anything. Bread and curries and tip almost $ 100

we are still not Astoria. $100 is alot of money for Sunnyside.

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Sunnysider

I don’t think it’s the location as Romanian Garden has been a huge hit (at least from what I see every time I pass there there) since moving right next door.

It’s simple… there wasn’t enough demand for what they offer. His brother has a better location and imo serves better sandwiches, which is their staple.

Also, there is Mangal Kebob and Turkish Grill not too far away from Habibi which serve similar food. That doesn’t help either

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Lucky Lu

I am a woman and frequented Habibi and its previous incarnation as El Shater. The family running Habibi are lovely people. I wonder just how Ruben defines “inviting” because if being friendly, serving good, reasonably-priced food and often offering this woman a wonderful Lebanese style coffee on the house is not inviting, then I don’t know what is! They had a number of regular customers they would chat with and I often found myself joining conversations between the owners and whatever random local happened to wander in. Mehdi has such a great sense of humor and a dry, quick wit that was always appreciated by me and other customers.

That family has been and is a part of our community and I am ashamed that anyone here would try to make them out to be some sort of disrespectful bunch by referring to them as “those people.” They have worked and lived in this neighborhood for years and I am saddened that they were not able to keep the store open. I always brought visiting friends there to try the food and buy hard to find Middle Eastern products and friends were always pleased with the experience. I wish the Osman family the best and hope we still see them around the neighborhood.

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IMissYouHabibi

I ‘ve lived accross the street for six months and this is pretty much the only place I go for a random bite to eat. I absolutely love their shawarma and falafel. I just recently mustered up the courage to try the random beef pie sitting out on the counter. It was tastey, but sketchy… I love the food here and the owners are great. Iwill miss you Habibi.

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Ruben

Hey Anonymous and Packard, if you’re not Greek don’t go to Mike’s Diner then in Astoria like 86Mets said, “Those”people won’t like you if you’re not Greek. Whooops. I just offended your overly sensitive sensibilities again.

seriously the magical world you live in where everyone sings kumbaya must be nice.

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86Mets

Any time I’ve been in this store the people were always very cordial and polite so my own personal experience with them has been positive. Sorry to see them close. These small, independent shops are what gives a neighborhood its unique character.

But generally speaking, you can find rude people of all nationalities and cultures. The one place I, and many friends and family have noticed is consistently rude, however, is Mike’s Diner in Astoria. If you’re not Greek, it’s like you’re invisible, especially when Greek customers who arrive after you get served first. If you’re not Greek, it seems they basically don’t want to know you.

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Ruben

Anonymous you are the typical passive aggressive idiot. You chime in making accusations then try to take the high road when they retaliate. we ARE talking about why this store closed (and stores like it) and as I said before whether you had a good experience with this place or not the bottom line was that it was uninviting. It didn’t open up to the community and that was its downfall.

and if you don’t think there are people who allow their culture and religious views affect how they run their business then you need to pay more attention to the world around you. Again , I have lived in Sunnyside all my life and the restaurants ran so masochista men have failed, I know people who did get mistreated . you didn’t? Good for you! I’m not talking about you. I’m talking about my experience and reasons .

Treat the people right and they will come. I’m wrong? then why is it closing? the food? the food was fine…people just weren’t eating it.

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Anonymous

and pommel, by 8pm, the shawarma is usually dried up. if you want to taste the shawarma at it’s prime, i highly suggest you go there from noon till 4pm. whole other expeience

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Anonymous

Ruben, you seem to have just lost all sense in your statements. You’re just speaking out of anger now and it is very apparent. but regardless, this post is not about the nonsense you’re sprewing. It is about how a store in our neighborhood has closed, and why we believe it did, so that future owners of that space, as well as other business owners, can learn from others’ mistakes.
Habibi seemed to be a hit or miss with people, and I think that was its downfall. Food stores have to be consistently good with their products because the competition in sunnyside is growing.

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pomme1200

I’m a woman. I went to Habibi often. They were lovely people. The food was delicious. Souk may be fine, but their chicken shwarma (just had it) was no comparison to Habibi’s, to give one example. I never had any problem there ‘ – being a woman’. I can’t say the owners were ‘not inviting’. They were always warm, saying hello and making conversation. What more do people want? Giving away the food for free every night to the ‘community’?

It may be that there are too many Middle Eastern stores or that residents don’t support local eateries, or that the location of Habibi is not the best or that the rent is too high.

But don’t say there was a problem with women.

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Ruben

you removed my comment when I stated the truth. typical politically correct coddling. on top of that, you remove a comment because it was against someone this administrator feels did not apply? Is that the type of site ran here? Biased slanted journalism censoring peoples voices.

I’ve been in sunnyside all my life. Its a fact that the stores that have not survived is mostly due to the owners not being inviting to the community. The community responds and they are gone. The people who ran Habibi saturated the restaurant with an aura of bigotry. those people gave plenty of women I know a cold shoulder and uncomfortable vibe.

its no secret that the culture is negative against women. Its FACT. As much as I enjoy Mangal Kabob they are the same way there , very quick and snark to women while men get the service.

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Sunnyside Post

One comment was just removed because it went over the line in terms of racism/bigotry. What’s more, the comment was directed toward the nice family who ran the store.

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Krissi

I’ve only been to Habibi twice, and I gotta tell you I wasn’t impressed. Admittedly they had just opened back then. Maybe the were just having some growing pains when I went there.

Souk el Shater on the other hand is AMAZING.

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O'shea

Sorry to see habibi go. Loved eating there.
Heard foodtown is next.
Oh well…More square foot for 99cent stores.

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Anonymous

^^ what an ignorant statement^^ what do you mean’ ” those” people don’t respect women?’ this is a conversation about a store thatt closed, dont go insulting people and saying ridiculous stuff that make you look like a douchebag and quite frankly, an idiot…maybe youre wife went in and got a bad vibe from them, fine, but it wasnt BECAUSE SHE WAS A FEMALE.. im certain there are women that were treated with the utmost respect in there, and males that were not..

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Ruben

They were the problem not the people. I never saw any advertisements from them, or promotions or anything. They were not inviting to the community and the community responds. My wife said she tried going in there once and got a terrible vibe cuz she’s a woman and you know..”those” people don’t really respect women.

She never went back, instead we went to Mangal Kabob or Turkish Grill for our hummus needs.

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86Mets

Mr. Novak,

Unfortunately not every landlord is blessed with such a virtuous, conscientious, model tenant such as yourself. And unfortunately not every tenant has a landlord that doesn’t pass on property tax increases to his tenants. Thank you both for being so awesome.

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Jay

I’m sorry, but you just can’t run a business like a dirty third-world dump.
I went in once, and wouldn’t go back.

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Mike Novak

Mr 86.

I had my last rental apartment in Sunnyside for ten years. In those ten years, my landlord increased my rent by ZERO. Thats right, NO RENT INCREASE for ten years. Why? He was not a greedy bastard who wanted to squeeze every penny form the rental. He was happy with what he got for the apartment and most of all, he was happy because I kept his property immaculately clean. I helped protect his investment and he realized that it was better IN THE LONG TERM to have me there as opposed to driving me out with onerous rent increases and taking a chance that the new tennant would take care of his property the way I did.

GREED IS UGLY, SHORT-SIGHTED AND DISRUPTIVE.

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Sunsunsun

The residents of Sunnyside just don’t support their neighborhood restaurants as much as they make themselves out to. Skillman is a lovely area but most of the restaurants there are empty….

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backslash

@Matt (along with above)

The chicken is generally marinated in lemon juice, coriander, garlic, salt, pepper, olive or grape seed oil.

a white sauce of yogurt, mayo, labne, garlic, parsley, salt, lemon juice, vinegar

harissa pepper sauce

rice made in chicken bone broth

If you think that sounds bad you’re missing out on a lot of life’s simple pleasures.

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@Matt

It’s just you. Would you prefer a Shake and Bake pork chop with Kraft Macaroni and Cheese?

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Matt

Is it just me, or does a “chicken rice street meat platter” sound really unappetizing?

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Messer

I’m sad to see this place go, and wish the owner and his family the best in their next endeavor. However, were there none among you that didn’t see this coming?

The store opened on the cratered remains of a store selling nearly identical products. That store went under due to lack of demand, lack of foot traffic and a huge corner space with high rent.

Habibi did sell good food (although as mentioned , was Very hit or miss, which comes from having fresh food sitting around due to a lack of people). However, there was clearly not a market for it at that location (See the previous paragraph). Added to that his brother opening a competing store selling the same food within a block’s distance, and with more access to foot traffic. The writing was on the wall from the continued grand opening to the final shuttering.

Also, did anyone ever think that Sunnyside seems to have plenty of stores selling olives, nuts and cheeses from open bars? That market has for a long time been over crowded. Its time for something new- that’s where the success will lie.

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Craic Dealer

I ate here and it was optimal. This is indeed a loss of a great eatery. Souk El Shater is another spot I will go to more often now.

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Helios

Their chicken rice dish had the best flavor. The downside was you never knew if it would be served the same way on another day. They should have had a couple of consistent specials that were served daily. I am sorry to see them go.

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IrishSunnysider

I only tried this place once but I thought it was good. Very sad to see another business go.

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backslash

@Packard

Yeah, it was a very nice place. Sadly, I wonder if it could have been saved by serving really good chicken rice street meat platters daily.

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44th street.(Sunnysider)

I think we need to help out our business with a incubator group that will help them solve their business problems and help them to market them business better with internet and promoting their services better.. rent is rent but business need customers..

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Packard

Sad news …. Mehdi & his wife were very good people. He would always give my children sweets or a cookie whenever we went in. I wish them luck & prosperity in the future.

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Just Looking

When the development mayor stole his third term we were all sunk. He made the city profitable by taking money from citizens and giving it to his real estate friends. Higher prices, poorer people be damned.

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Webley

Maybe a new pub will open, we need more drunk people.
Today as I was walking on greenpoint avenue, I saw two drunks sitting in front of a pub, at 6:30pm.

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86Mets

@Mike Novak

What about the greedy politicians who demand high property taxes from landlords? Where do you think the landlords get the money to pay them? There is plenty of greed around. And tell me, when you sell your home, will you try to get the highest price possible for it?

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Mario ex_NYker

“The rent is (and has always been) too damn high!”, Souk El Shater has great food and a very friendly staff, though. Miss Sunnyside!

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John

Bimmy,

You have it all wrong.
It’s the curse of the Irish American Athletic Club. Until we tear down the Celtic Apartments, and build a massive monument to the athletes and Joe Crowley, bad things will happen in the Sunnyside/Woodside area.

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Bimmy Jam Vuran

sunnyside must be built on an ancient buriel ground, what else can explain the mass of business failures and all the screwed up movie night mishaps?

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anonymous

that sucks, the place barely lasted. now i feel like an asshole for going to el shater a bunch of times and never having gone here.

Reply

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