Established in 1991, the Mediterranean Deli offers diverse dining options from the Middle East and the Mediterranean. From humble beginnings, it has grown into a popular destination for the Chapel Hill community, especially for those looking for authentic and healthy Mediterranean food.
Jamil Kaddoura, founder and owner of Mediterranean Deli, worked at various hotels in Minnesota and North Carolina, eventually becoming director of food and beverage at the Europa Hotel (now the Sheraton Chapel Hill Hotel). After falling in love with Chapel Hill, he decided to open a Mediterranean deli in 1991.
Kaddoura’s experience in making and selling foodstuffs dates back to his youth when he worked in a falafel stand in Qalqilya in the West Bank. This became the beginning of his continuing passion for the food industry. Decades later, Kaddoura Restaurant on Franklin Street is teeming with visitors who want to sample the authentic flavors of the Mediterranean. Having been open for nearly thirty years, Kaddoura has highlighted that creativity is the key to the lasting success of Mediterranean Daily.
“You always have to be creative, that is the secret of Med Deli, we try to keep innovating new items, give what the customer wants, and stay within the Mediterranean diet,” said Kaddoura.
Continuous experimentation and innovation of new food items and flavors has greatly expanded the restaurant’s menu from 12 items in 1991 to today’s 114 items that rotate throughout the year.
Falafel, gyros, shawarma, chicken salad and fatayer are just some of the options diners can choose from at the Mediterranean deli. The restaurant also has food items for vegetarians and vegans.
Kaddoura said his favorite menu items are foul madmas – a dish similar to a bean salad – and pandora, a Middle Eastern dish made of chopped tomatoes with fresh jalapenos and garlic.
Using an oven purchased in Jerusalem, Mediterranean Deli opened a gluten-free bakery to offer customers healthy food options, something Kaddoura said was the highlight of his career.
When a restaurant has been open for as long as the Mediterranean Deli has been around, it can easily drop in quality and inconsistency, but that’s not an option for Kaddoura.
“In order to maintain consistency, you have to document recipes, and every employee has to follow the recipe book, you cannot achieve consistency at the table unless everyone is aware of the proper procedures,” Kaddoura said.
In addition to giving people a great dining experience, Kaddoura and his restaurant have been greatly involved in the community by donating to local organizations in the Chapel Hill community and national organizations such as the Red Cross. This stems from his experience as a refugee growing up in the midst of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
I was a refugee, and I grew up in a refugee camp. “People have helped us a lot and I think I carried this here when I started,” Kaddoura said. “I really believe that our involvement with the broader community is what people like most about us, more than even the food.”
When asked to summarize what made the Mediterranean deli so beloved by his customers, Kaddoura put sharing as the biggest factor, before mentioning Mediterranean food, pricing, servings, and labeled foods sold by his restaurant as factors, in that order.
If you are looking for delicious, authentic and healthy food, visit Mediterranean Deli. The restaurant is currently open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. at 410 W. Franklin Street in Chapel Hill and at 202 W. Haggard Ave, Ste 102 in Elon.