Update (i p.m. 8/6/2012): I just got a call from Mohammad Abdul Ahmad informing me that, because of a financial dispute, Abdul’s Afandy has closed.
I was driving up Central Avenue last week, patrolling for new restaurants and iftar buffets, when I saw a sign that made me slam on the brakes and send the car zooming into reverse. At 1851 Central Ave. in the window of what had until very recently been a Falafel King restaurant (and before that, a Porky’s Drive-In), I spotted a sign that said “Abdul’s Afandy.” And the guy standing in the parking lot looked very familiar. His hair had gone gray (so has mine, but he still has a lot more of it), but it was unmistakeably Mohammad Abdul Ahmad – whom I hadn’t seen in at least 25 years. I introduced myself, and Mohammad threw his arms around me.
Back in the 80s, Abdul’s Afandy 2523 Nicollet Ave. had been one of the first Middle Eastern restaurants in Minneapolis, and a favorite of mine. We quickly caught up on three decades worth of news – Mohammad owned or managed a couple of other restaurants over the years, moved out of town and back a couple of times, spent some time in his native Jerusalem, owned several convenience stores, remarried a couple of times. had seven children (and recently lost a son tragically to liver disease) and finally decided to get back into the restaurant business.
His new restaurant offers all of the old Middle Eastern favorites: kibbe, kebabs, kofta, felafel, tabbouli, baba ghanouj, shawarma, (meat roasted on a vertical spit) baklava and more. I stopped back a few days later to try the $6.95 lunch buffet, ($8.95 for dinner) which offered many of those these items, as tasty as I remembered them from 30 years ago.
Prices are extremely reasonable – you can get a falafel sandwich for $4.99, gyros or chicken shawarma sandwich for $4.99, or a lamb and beef shawarma sandwich for $5.99. Kabob and shawarma plates range from $8.99 to $9.99. Vegetarian options include the Mediterranean vegetarian combo of falafel, hummus, tabouli salad, and fried zucchini, eggplant and potatoes ($6.99); and mujadera, a traditional dish of rice, lentils and spices with fried onions, cucumbers, tomatoes and yogurt ($6.99).
Abdul’s Afandy, 1851 Central Ave. N.E., Minneapolis, 612-788-4122. Open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily; they plan to start opening for breakfast soon.