Nida Judeh says the secret to making great hummus is “keeping it simple” and adding “that Palestinian olive oil that gives it the rich taste.”
Nida works alongside her brother, Mohamed Judeh, at Shawarma Brothers in Cuyahoga Falls, where the two serve hummus, falafel, gyros and shawarma. Mohamed opened the restaurant a little under two years ago and its authentic cuisine has caught the attention of many Akronites.
“For food, you’re happy to give people food and they’re happy to receive it,” says Mohamed.
Nida and Mohamed are Palestinians who’ve spent the majority of their lives in Akron. While Mohamed was born in the United States, Nida came to the U.S at two years old and grew up in Detroit before coming to Akron with her family.
They both say the dinner table was the place where they were able to connect with their family and with Palestine.
“Growing up, my dad was working a lot, so we didn’t get to see him that much. But when it was time to eat, we would see him, and that was our get-together, that was where we all connected,” says Mohamed.
Now, they’re bringing that sense of togetherness and home to Akron, which Nida says she loves.
“A lot of people pick on Ohio, but I like Ohio, especially Akron,” says Nida. Mohamed agrees, adding, “Akron is where I’m from. My roots are set here. All I needed was a little water to grow.”
The siblings were originally afraid of opening a Middle Eastern restaurant in Cuyahoga Falls because they weren’t sure if people would embrace them.
“At first, my parents were like, ‘I don’t know if anyone is going to come,’ especially with me wearing the hijab and being Muslim,” says Nida. “But the people have been amazing here. They’ve been really respectful, really friendly. They’ve been giving us great feedback and they’ve been very welcoming.”
Mohamed echoes that same sentiment. He says they get customers from “Saudi Arabia, from Lebanon, from Palestine, from Sudan, Somalia, everywhere.” He loves to “talk to everyone about their culture” and start meaningful conversations.
Aside from Shawarma Brothers, Mohamad is a father to two kids, ages five and two. He’s also working on his bachelor’s degree at Stark State College. Nida is equally busy, taking care of three boys as a single mother.
The business has helped Mohamed and Nida’s relationship grow stronger.
“It’s made us closer. He got married and moved on with his life. I had my kids. So we never had time for each other,” says Nida. “Being here together, it made us closer.”
Mohamed opened the restaurant as a way to support his family and his siblings, but he says it’s been hard work.
“It’s tough. It takes a lot of time, a lot of effort. You can’t just put half-effort. You have to put your full effort into it. If you don’t, it shows with the sales and with the customers,” he says.
He adds that you should “do something you love.”
The great food, sizable portions and reasonable prices set Shawarma Brothers apart from other restaurants. Both Nida and Mohamed invite everyone in Akron to visit Shawarma Brothers. It’s “cozy” and “inviting,” Mohamed says.
Visit Shawarma Brothers at 1808 Portage Trail in Cuyahoga Falls: 10 am – 9 pm Tuesday – Saturday 10 am – 6 pm Sunday
Noor Hindi is The Devil Strip’s Senior Reporter. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.