Greenwich Village mainstay launches inaugural Long Island location
When Mamoun’s Falafel opens to the public on Saturday, July 7, it will be the culmination of a dream for franchise owner Imran Lakhani. When he immigrated to the United States in the early 1990s from India, he bought a newsstand to make money that was right up the block from Mamoun’s flagship store located in Greenwich Village.
“I came to this country in 1991 and I was 18 years old and I went to NYU to study law. I didn’t have money at that time because NYU is such an expensive school. I wanted to pursue my studies, so I bought a newsstand to run on MacDougal Street, right on the corner where the first Mamoun’s Falafel is,” Lakhani recalled. “Every day I used to have lunch and dinner at the Mamoun’s. It was like a dream. So after 25 years, I really thank the Chater brothers and Hassam, who is the CEO, to give me a chance. They gave me the rights to Long Island and this is my first one. Hopefully, I want to put more Mamoun’s locations all over Long Island if this works out good.”
Founded in 1971, Mamoun’s Falafel currently has another Manhattan outpost at St. Mark’s Place along with six more locations in a number of non-New York City locales including New Jersey (Hoboken, New Brunswick, Princeton, Fort Lee), Texas (Dallas) and Connecticut (New Haven). Lakhani’s Syosset store is located on 408 Jericho Tpke., is around 2,500-square feet, will be run by a crew of between 35 to 40 employees and be open Sunday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and on Friday and Saturday, from 11 to 1 a.m.
Being a longtime Woodbury/Syosset resident whose two daughters both attended Syosset High School, Lakhani wanted to open up a business in his own backyard. Having already owned Manhattan-based franchises of Blimpies, Quiznos and Tasti D-Lite before being priced out by escalating New York City rents, the enthusiastic entrepreneur saw a chance to bring different cuisine to his neighbors.
“Initially, I was supposed to do something with the Halal Guys, but I wanted to break that trend of chicken and rice. Everywhere you see chicken and rice. You see it with every single cart. But nobody has falafel. I just wanted to have something that everybody would love, enjoy and is healthy to eat,” he said. “[Mamoun’s] is one of the oldest falafel stores around. Everything is made from scratch and is fresh. Every morning we get deliveries of fresh ingredients and nothing is frozen in the store. And you know what? The herbs and spices make this a real treat and every time, you get the same flavor that you find from whatever other location you go to whether it’s on MacDougal Street or in Hoboken. There is a real consistency [of taste] and they have never changed the flavor of the falafel.”
The store’s namesake food is a deep-fried ball made from ground chickpeas, onions, parsley and garlic that is delicately seasoned and tasty, with a crunchy, exterior shell on the outside. Other menu items include vegetarian fare like hummus (chickpea spread with lemon, garlic and tahineh) and baba ganouj (roasted eggplant spread with parsley, garlic and tahineh) to signature meat sandwiches like the MacDougal (shawarma, falafel, lettuce, tomatoes, onions and tahineh sauce) and the Sullivan (chicken kebab, hummus, tabbouleh, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, olive oil, lemon juice and tahineh sauce). And if the flavor isn’t enough, Mamoun’s signature hot sauce kicks the heat up considerably. Mamoun’s foray onto Long Island is something that was long-planned according to CEO Chater.
“It’s taken Mamoun’s nearly 50 years to bring our iconic falafel and Middle Eastern eats to Long Island, but we’re more than thrilled that our beloved concept will now be more easily accessible to those in our own backyard,” he said. “The new store in Syosset will bring Mamoun’s to people who have been loyal supporters of the brand for a long time, and we look forward to hopefully opening locations in more Long Island cities in the years to come.”
The first 100 people in line attending the Syosset store’s grand opening on July 7 will receive free Mamoun’s swag. There will also be opportunities to enter a grand prize raffle drawing for prizes that include a flat screen TV and Beats headphones.
As for the next step, Lakhani has plans for spreading the Mamoun’s Falafel gospel going forward.
“My future plans are to open up by universities [on Long Island] like Stony Brook, Hofstra and Adelphi. I’d also like to open up in Huntington Village. These are my targets,” he said. “[Especially] because our customer base runs from the younger crowd of 15 and 16 years old up to the people who are from 55 to 60 years old.”