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Queens Foodies Find Silver Lining After Beloved Lebanese Restaurant Moves

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | March 3, 2017 1:46pm | Updated on March 6, 2017 8:44am
 Wafa's serves traditional Lebanese cuisine.
Wafa's serves traditional Lebanese cuisine.
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DNAinfo/Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska

QUEENS — Forest Hills foodies are making the best of losing Wafa’s, once considered one of best restaurants in the neighborhood, after the owners moved out of the neighborhood to relaunch in East Williamsburg, locals said.

The restaurant, which closed its Metropolitan Avenue location last summer and reopened as Wafa’s Express at 812 Grand St., near Bushwick Avenue in December, earned numerous enthusiastic reviews, including mentions in Michelin guides during its time in Forest Hills.

"I've been going to Wafa's since they were in their original, tiny spot on 72nd Road and was sad to see them leave the neighborhood," said Jerome Masterson, a longtime Forest Hills resident and Wafa's fan.

"I was shocked to see them randomly pop up on Yelp the other day," he added about the new location. "I will be visiting soon."

Old patrons from Forest Hills also took to social media to share their love of the restaurant — and say they'll make the trip to Brooklyn for the food.

"You've moved further from my home, but closer to my work! I'll take it!," posted one customer when the restaurant announced its reopening on its Facebook page.

In East WIlliamsburg, Wafa's continues to serve Middle Eastern favorites including tabouleh, shish tawook, kibbe, chicken shawarma, and falafel, but with the focus on delivery and takeout services.

Patrons can also order their food at the counter and eat at one of several tables at the restaurant, the owners said.

“We wanted to go with that style again,” said Joe Salameh who runs the eatery with his mother, Wafa Chami, known for her unique recipes, which she learned from her mother and grandmother while growing up in Lebanon.

The family first started their business in Forest Hills in 2008 as a takeout place on the corner of 72nd and Metropolitan avenues. They closed it in Dec. 2010 to open their sit-down restaurant in February 2011 at 100-05 Metropolitan Ave. But last June they decided to relocate to California where they were planning to open a takeout restaurant again, which they said would require less efforts than a sit-down eatery. 

Chami said last June that she was overwhelmed by the amount of work she had to do on a daily basis while running a restaurant.

"I worked day and night,” she said last summer.

After spending time on the West Coast, they decided to return to Forest Hills, Salameh said. But they were unable to open a new restaurant in their old neighborhood due to a 5-year non-compete agreement they signed with the owners of a vegan restaurant that took over their space on Metropolitan Avenue, Salameh said.

Salameh said that while they are working on attracting new customers in Brooklyn, some of their longtime patrons from Forest Hills have found their new location and often travel from Queens to eat there. 

"It's not that far," Salameh said.