When hungry patrons first set foot in the homey Middle Eastern restaurant in Scottsdale Airpark called De Babel, they are quickly greeted by spotless floors, the aroma of freshly cut chicken, lamb and beef and the sounds of French fries and falafel being made to order.
Behind the counter, carefully crafting meals is owner Marwan Kandeel, who meticulously inspects each meal to ensure he and his staff serve only the finest and freshest foods possible.
This commitment to perfection and authenticity has garnered his establishment the recognition of being one of Yelp’s top 100 places to eat this year.
“We don't want to compromise on the quality of food or the quality of service or cleanliness or hygiene or safety,” Kandeel said. “We believe a good product would sell itself, good service is obvious and a clean restaurant is obvious."
Although these details are easily noticeable when customers dine in at his casual dive, Kandeel attributes his commitment to quality to his career in the food service industry which has spanned nearly three decades.
Kandeel, a native of Jordan, began working in the industry at the age of 14 at an Italian restaurant before jetting off to Dubai where he would work for big chains like Five Guys Burgers and Fries and Cinnabon for over two decades before making another trek overseas to the United States.
“I always wanted to settle somewhere with good opportunities and a growing, sustainable market and the United States was the place I thought I could settle with my wife and start my own business,” Kandeel said.
Because of this, Kandeel says he began seriously devising his idea of a restaurant about three and a half years ago.
His idea was to create a restaurant titled De Babel as Babel translates to Babylon in Hebrew and offered an idyllic setting to base his concept around.
“I wanted to associate the restaurant and the authenticity of something really back in time,” Kandeel said.
In addition to creating a space with authentic-tasting food, he wanted to create a haven for customers to customize their orders that would satisfy their taste buds.
“The customization is unlimited,” Kandeel said. “People can customize the meals, the sandwiches, the toppings and condiments, or they can customize something new every time they come in.”
However, his dream took time to come to fruition.
When Kandeel arrived in the United States, he started his career by working for Sheraton Hotels in Houston, Texas where he would work for nearly a year before packing his bags for the west's most western town and making his dream come true.
The dream began to take shape when Kandeel found an intimate space off of Loop 101 and Raintree Drive that could cater to the surrounding businesses looking for a quick and tasty lunch or a healthy portioned dinner to take home.
“There’s a wonderful potential for Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food because it’s everyday food, it’s not food you eat once a month or once a week,” he said.
Kandeel opened his doors in July 2021 and after a few weeks, he began seeing lines wrapping outside of the door during his lunch rush and into the nighttime rush.
His demand is often so high in-house that Kandeel will shut off delivery during his peak hours to keep orders properly fulfilled.
This hasn’t impacted his business as it still boasts a five-star rating on Yelp and was recently recognized as one of the top 100 places to eat at this year by the company that calls itself “the company that connects people with great local businesses.”
Although the award is an honor, Kandeel sees it as an expectation that customers and he will hold himself and his employees accountable to uphold.
“It's actually a heavy responsibility for many reasons,” Kandeel said. “Now we're challenged to maintain that trust and I also worry that this could drive increased traffic which could cause some kind of delays since we want to keep the operation smooth to where people get their food quickly.
“This is a big challenge when we have people lining up outside the door and we want to respect their time.”
Kandeel is still not backing down on his commitment to quality and selling his big sellers like the “late night chicken” sandwich, chicken tawook plate and hummus with pita bread.
Because of this, he plans to continue to hire the help he needs to accommodate the rush of hungry customers and feels honored by the recognition.
“Being recognized by such a prestigious award, it's something really good,” Kandeel said. “I left everything behind in my life and this makes me feel proud because I made the right decision and we will continue to try to hire more people as much as possible to be able to compete with the new sales train.”
Info: De Babel is located at 14884 N. Pima Access Road, Suite 106, Scottsdale, 480-991-2022, de-babel.com
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