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Lunch on the move: Rachel’s rolls to downtown Buffalo - PHOTOS

blog by Ben Tsujimoto  • 

Rachel’s Mediterranean makes an aggressive promise: you’ll be served in the same amount of time it takes to order at its next-door neighbor, Starbucks.

Connected to the Rachel’s Cafe & Deli in Williamsville and the Rachel’s Mediterranean inside the Commons of UB, Rachel’s Mediterranean at 235 Delaware Ave. at the corner of Chippewa is distinctly different. It’s takeout-based, offers minimal parking and no seating inside. It’s open until 5 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday mornings, and delivery is free within five miles during all hours of operation.

While the late-night availability and delivery are exciting options for Chippewa revelers, the true advantage lies in Rachel’s recognition of the fast-paced professional life in downtown Buffalo.

Directly across the street from SPoT Coffee and next to Starbucks, the new Mediterranean restaurant is attractive for business folk who want a quick lunch to accompany their afternoon coffee, a fresh, (relatively) healthy bite they can munch quickly at their desks or in business cafeterias that vend inferior fare.

As Newell Nussbaumer wrote in his Buffalo Rising profile of Rachel’s, the setup is simple—the ordering line forms at the right corner of the restaurant and moves left (opposite of most Subways, actually), where the customer first chooses a wrap, salad or bowl, then proceeds to add meat, vegetables, sauces before selecting side orders and drinks before cashing out.

The food is prepared, cooked and pieced together in front of customers—showing a supreme confidence and transparency in ingredients and cleanliness—and the smells wafting from the nearby grill whet appetites.

In the five weeks since opening March 1, Rachel’s president Jahad Khoury and manager Danny Elkhoury have introduced a small, simple—yet very customizable—menu that has created a buzz surrounding the building that once housed Chez Ann Salon. Khoury leased the space in August, then commenced a six-month build-out to open before spring 2013.

“We offer faster service and better products,” Elkhoury said, comparing his restaurant to nearby options. “We took the top-selling items from the other Rachel’s restaurants and added them to this menu. We’re concentrating on what we do best.”

Falafel wraps and chicken souvlaki rice bowls have been popular, Elkhoury notes, but the manager is quick to point out the quality of Rachel’s ingredients.

“We use New York strip steak for our souvlaki, and there’s brown rice, which is healthy and flavorful, available for rice bowls,” said Elkhoury, who also owns Mazra Foods, a healthy, frozen snack manufacturer set to open later this spring. “All of our sauces—garlic, dill, tzatziki and tahini—are made from scratch, and the extra work put into making those is the reason we charge $1.00 extra.”

Here’s a photo of Rachel’s rotating special—Greek-fried potatoes, which aren’t exactly healthy—but still a delightful comfort food. Khoury noted that a garlic spinach pie is in the works, too, with feta cheese and tomato. Expect many of the specials to include traditional Lebanese cuisine.

Rachel’s sources its produce and meat from Guercio’s, Tarantino’s and Latina Food Service, and the employees dispose of the product that’s leftover at the end of a day before starting prep at 6 a.m. the next day.

Khoury, the business’ president, is hopeful to expand locally and beyond, but for now, the duo is occupied with Rachel’s hours of 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 5 a.m. Friday and noon to 5 a.m. Saturday. Rachel’s is closed on Sunday.

Rachel's Mediterranean on Urbanspoon

TAGGED: chicken souvlaki, danny elkhoury, delaware and chippewa, greek food buffalo, jahad khoury, lebanese food, rachel's mediterranean, starbucks

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