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     Saha wa Afia "We Wish You Good Health and an Enjoyable Meal"
2011 - Volume 2 Issue 2
Comidas Sabrosas
World Cuisine
Article: Jasmine Evaristo
Photos: Jesse Ramirez
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To truly experience Middle Eastern culture, a pilgrimage through its food is unparalleled authenticity. And the dining experience at Jerusalem International Food & Grill on El Paso's Westside provides a culinary passport through the Mediterranean Sea towards the Arabian Peninsula.

    "The way I like my own food is the way I like to serve food,"says Alex Alqadi, "The food that I'm going to eat in my house, I'm going to serve to my customers."
  Adjacent to their casual and unassuming dining area is their market, stocked with an estimated 10,000 imported ingredients and spices from Russia, Arabia, India, Pakistan, Bosnia and many other countries throughout the Middle East.

Jerusalem International
Food & Grill

5360 N Mesa St
El Paso, TX 79912
"The key of this food is the spices," says owner, Alex Alqadi, who emphasizes that within each region of the Middle East, each ingredient and each spice is rooted in deep traditions with a unique history. And, so begins his story…

Jerusalem International Food & Grill opened in November of 2001 to an unconvinced El Paso community. "In the beginning, it was hard to convince people that Middle Eastern food was really good food," says Alex, chocking up their skepticism to bad past experiences. But eventually, El Pasoans couldn't fan away those seductive fragrant spices. "We found out so many people wanted to try food that they weren't used to, and that was a surprise to us."

Originally from Jerusalem, Alex was in Kuwait when he made a beeline straight for the United States when Saddam invaded in the early 90s. He joined his relatives here in El Paso in 1992. His family had owned several businesses, including one within the supermarket industry. Jerusalem Grill & Market was conceived after he had seen several misrepresentations of Middle Eastern food. He wanted to remedy that and present something unique to the consumers.

Alex relates that what makes Middle Eastern cuisine truly distinct is "Mother Nature" – no use of hormones; everything is natural, producing clean flavors. And the menu, created by Alex himself, is a culinary adventure of those wonderful flavors unique to the Middle East. The menu runs the gamut from Tabbouli and Grape Leaves stuffed with rice; to falafels with hummus and gyros with tzatziki sauce.

Appetites will be satiated with Jerusalem International Food & Grill's scrumptious meat platters. There's the lamb and chicken shawermas (Alex's favorite) that are sure to appease one's taste buds – slices of lamb and chicken served with rice, hommus, salad and fresh pita. And for a dish to indulge those gluttonous cravings – the Jerusalem Mashawee, a robust entrée of four chicken kebab skewers, four shish kebab skewers, four tawook kebab skewers, four kafta sticks, served with hommus, baba ganjouj, tabbouli salad, pickles, olives and pita bread.

El Paso has been a diamond-in-the-rough location for this Mediterranean gem to shine for nearly a decade, and Alex has capitalized on the opportunity to educate and share his culture with others. "It's really good to help people," he says.

Unlike the average restaurateur, Alex enjoys sharing his personal recipes with his customers. "I'm open to giving all my recipes to my customers," he says, understanding that his diners want to bring home the experience they've had in his restaurant. "If you give it to them, they're not going to hurt your business, they're going to stick to it. I find it fun."

With his philosophies, it's not hard to fathom how Alex has created an eatery founded upon culture and authentically good food that can bond good people. ///
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