Business Spotlight: Ibby’s Falafel, Jersey City
Celebrating 18 Years of Good Food
by Karen Adams
Eighteen years ago, Adnan Kwara opened Ibby’s Falafel in 1996 and named it after his infant son, Ibrahim. That son, nicknamed Ibby, is 19 now, and the award-winning restaurant has grown just as much.
Kwara, who was born in Damascus, Syria, and grew up in New York, offers authentic Middle Eastern cuisine that is known for its excellence. His falafel, made from an old family recipe, has been called “a New Jersey legend” and “the falafel that made falafel famous” by various publications. Kwara, 44, learned to cook traditional Middle Eastern dishes, such as tabouli and baba ghanoush as well as falafel, with his mother, father and other relatives throughout his childhood. “I loved the food industry and learned it all at a young age,” he says. “So it made sense to start my own business when I had a family of my own.” His family includes his wife, Amal, and, besides Ibby, children Zeynab, Yousef and Mariam.
Customers also appreciate the menu items that fit their dietary needs as well, Kwara says. He has many regular vegan and vegetarian visitors, and also some who prefer halal meat. Halal meat, he explains, is that which is slaughtered according to Islamic law. Similar to kosher guidelines, halal law follows a humane way of raising the animals, feeding them a clean diet and minimizing their suffering. Halal meats are high-quality and appropriate for anyone to eat, whether they follow halal guidelines or not, says Kwara, who began offering it in 2010. “We listened to what our customers demanded , and we wanted to offer it to the community,” he explains. “Halal meats are very expensive but keep our customers coming back. We pride ourselves on the consistency of our recipes, especially the falafel.”
His falafel has been voted Best Falafel in New Jersey byNew Jersey Monthly magazine five years in a row, since 2009, and this year’s Reader’s Choice Best Restaurant award was especially gratifying. “I am so happy that our commitment, dedication and hard work are paying off, and here we are 18 years later,” Kwara says. “Every day we offer consistently good food. We never scrimp on quality for our customers. Even if the prices of ingredients [such as tomatoes or eggplant] go up, the recipes contain the same amount and our own prices stay reasonable and do not change. This is very important for quality.” The restaurant is open every day of the year, with one half-day on Thanksgiving.
The awards are wonderful, Kwara says, but he is just as proud of the restaurant’s part in revitalizing downtown Jersey City. As one of the original business owners during the early days of Jersey City’s rebirth, he has seen the transformation from the beginning. “That’s great, and it makes us a big part of the community.” Ibby’s Falafel has a second location in Freehold, run by Kwara’s brother, Nedal.
Such measures as never sacrificing on the quality of ingredients, offering healthy food, frequently changing the cooking oil, and making everything fresh and on-site daily have resulted in a good reputation and customer loyalty all these years.
“People come to see us when they come back to town and say. ‘I grew up on your food,’” Kwara says. “It’s humbling to be part of the tradition of Jersey City. It’s very rewarding.”
In honor of its 18th anniversary, Ibby’s Falafel is offering its falafel sandwich for $1, Nov. 1 through Dec. 31, with the Natural Awakenings coupon. Offer for Jersey City location only.
Ibby’s Falafel, 303 Grove St., Jersey City; 4 W. Main St., Freehold. For more information, call 201-432-2400 (Jersey City) or 732-409-1234 (Freehold) or visit IbbysFalafels.com.