WICKER PARK — The owners of a new Middle Eastern restaurant in Wicker Park might be beginners on the dining scene but they're neighborhood veterans.
After operating Universal Liquors for 25 years at 1803 W. North Ave., on the southwest corner of North and Wood streets, the Mubayed family sold their business last May to Zen Wine & Spirits.
'I've always had a love for cooking, and we figured in the neighborhood there's every kind of restaurant you can imagine," Mary Ann Mubayed said. "Middle Eastern is the healthiest food you can possibly eat, and we want to bring our heritage to Division Street."
Shawarma Garden at 1951 W. Division Street — in a space that was once home to Habit boutique, which closed in July 2010 — will be family-owned and operated by Mary Ann Mubayed, her husband Sam and son Nader.
Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) penned a letter to the Department of Business Affairs on behalf of the Mubayeds in March.
"[They've] have been excellent partners in our community and I am confident that the new establishment will be positive. Our diversity is one of our best attributes and this business will add to our unique and innovative neighborhood," Moreno wrote.
Mary Ann Mubayed said there will be 25 items on Shawarma Garden's menu ranging from appetizers to salads, and "prices will be affordable and portions will be generous."
Originally from Jerusalem, Mubayed said that her favorite specialty to cook is Kifka kabob, ground meat with parsley and spices.
"It will be a lot of secret recipes. Everybody has their own homemade secret that's been passed down from generations," she said.
The 1,700-square-foot space will seat about 30 people and offer delivery and takeout.
Mubayed said Shawarma Garden hopes to open the first week of July.