FLINT, Michigan—Garlic sauce, lemon zest, grilled chicken, hummus, and rice gently fume and coax from inside the breeze way. There’s a lot of movement inside the Badawest Restaurant on Corunna Road just east of I-75, but the familiar smells and smiles guide those coming through to a soft oval booths and pictures of the Lebanese coastline.
Katelin Miller stands behind the hostess stand preparing for the dinner rush. The waitress is bagging flat pieces of pita bread into bags, into small baskets while simultaneously stacking menus. “People like the food because this restaurant has been in this community for 30 years and because they know what there getting is healthy, fresh, and fast.”
Miller says the restaurant is popular with the local medical community and foodies who crave healthy options, “because of our vegetarian options, our juices, and the fact that we make everything fresh—particularly our baba ghanoush, our chicken shawarma, kofta, and tabbouleh.”
Prior owners Mike and Sam Hachem decided to retire about six months ago, leaving operations to Imad Dabaja, with co-owner and manager Ali Shamass. The previous owners’ brother, Adnan Hachem, still runs the kitchen as head chef.
“Deboned chicken is still really popular with people around the area because we use the same recipe, the lemon dressing that goes into the grilled chicken, that we get from the market every 3 days,” Shamass says, “but what’s really special, I think, is the homemade garlic sauce, our tabbouleh, and just everything that goes into the dish.”
When Shamass says fresh tabbouleh, he means, new large batches are made daily—sometimes every four hours. “I think people would be surprised to find out how much work, love, time, and effort goes into making the food,” he said. “We are carrying on a tradition and adding on to it.”
New additions include a bread oven and juicer, which will expand the menu to include breakfast options. “It’s a special kind of oven that we had to order. It’s going to take a little while, like 70 days, to get here, but we’re hoping to have all of that ready before March rolls around,” Shamass said.
Miller said the change in management was difficult at first for some regulars to get used to. “We did see a slow down, for about a month there, while people tested us out,” she laughs.
“I think some people thought we would change things around completely from the way Sam and Mike ran things,” she said. “But once they saw we were staying true to the old menu that people have loved for 30 years—and adding to it—while also lowering prices on certain things, like no longer charging for bread, all of those regulars have come back around,” Miller says. “The food is what is going to bring you back.”
Our tip: For a late lunch on the go, try one of the wraps. The shawarma wrap oozing with garlic sauce and a slice of pickle with a side of tabbouleh is perfect for a wintery afternoon.
Badawest Restaurant is located at 4018 Corunna Road. Hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.