LOGAN SQUARE — After seven years of planning, a highly-anticipated Middle Eastern restaurant from the owners of Sultan's Market is gearing up to open to the public. But first, it's opening Wednesday and Thursday for 200 participants in DNA's "In Real Life" program. Follow the social media posts below.
"It is scary to open doors, like putting a kid to school for the first time," said Shadi Ramli, 36, co-owner of Masada at 2206 N. California Ave. in Logan Square.
Scheduled for 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday — before Masada opens to the public — the In Real Life (IRL) group dinners will include a four-course meal and drinks for $18.
Both Wednesday and Thursday night's are sold out.
Offering 66 options for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch, the 10,000-square-foot Masada is adorned with vintage family portraits, Middle Eastern relics, lanterns and paintings. The first and second floors can accommodate 200 people, while an additional 100 diners can sit on two secluded back patios.
Masada also boast three bars, a PA system and a dance floor, with a basement lounge that might also offer karaoke, Shadi Ramli said.
Unlike the cafeteria-style service of Sultan's Market — with locations in Wicker Park and Lincoln Park — Masada is be a sit-down restaurant offering a variety of dishes that are designed to be shared.
Shadi Ramli is one of two sons of Masada Ramli, the matriarch of Sultan's Market, a popular falafel restaurant that opened in 1989 at 2057 W. North Ave.
Serving as Masada's executive chef, Masada Ramli has been testing and perfecting her recipes, influenced by Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt's arid desert and mountainous regions.
Masada's menu offers three times as many options than Sultan's Market, with "lots of vegan foods," Masada Ramli said.
The menu offers seven types of salad, eight soups, seven varieties of grains and several meat (chicken, lamb, fish, beef) and vegetarian entrees.
Intrepid meat eaters can enjoy "organ meats" such as chicken gizzards and chicken liver as well as Tohal (broiled lamb spleen) and lamb hearts and kidneys.
"I asked old timers, Greeks and Asian people that have owned restaurants forever, 'What is your secret?' They told me it is quality food, own your own property and have a menu that is so big people can come and try different things," Shadi Ramli said.
Ramli, who does not eat pork because it is not Halal, said Masada's menu strives to appeal to fish and egg eaters, vegans, gluten-free people and non-pork meat eaters.
For Sultan's Market loyalists accustomed to eating falafel inside of split-open pita bread, the falafel at Masada will be stuffed into "hefty wraps" with potatoes and olives, Shadi Ramli said.
The falafel wraps as well as chicken shawarma and Imsakhan, or chicken roulette rolls, will be wrapped in whole wheat shrak bread, which is a Lebanese bread often compared to pita bread but is lighter and more like a tortilla.
Masada Ramli plans to bake shrak daily inside of Sultan's Market at 2057 W. North Ave. and sell the bread in bags at both Sultan's Market locations and Masada.
Vegans looking for a new staple might find a favorite in Koshari, an Egyptian dish made with rice, brown lentils and macaroni topped with chick peas, tomatoes, crispy onions and garlic lemon Jalapeno sauce.
"You know how they say America runs on Dunkin' [Donuts]? Egypt runs on Koshari," said Shadi Ramli, adding that Koshari "gives you carbs and proteins and is not full of oils so it takes time for the body to break it down."
To wash everything down, Masada will serve soft drinks and teas as well as Almaza and 961, Lebanese beers. Also planned are whiskey, scotches and cocktails such as a "Moroccan mojitos," with fresh mint and hibiscus tea.
Masada, 2206 N. California Ave. Hours are 11 a.m to 2 a.m. Sunday-Friday, 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. Saturday. For updates, visit Masada's Facebook page. To sign up for Masada's e-newsletter, visit masadachicago.com Ph: 773-697-8397.