Harmonie Garden back where it belongs near Wayne State
By Nick Meyer | Friday, 02.04.2011, 03:08 PM

Owner passes out 600 free falafel sandwiches at grand opening

Owner Taher Jaber
In the business world, the first golden rule is that the customer is always right. So when Taher Jaber, owner of Harmonie Garden Cafe, began getting tons of requests to move back to his old stronghold at Wayne State University, it was almost as if he had no choice  to listen to the customers.

And this time around, Jaber brought plenty of falafel sandwiches with him. The long-time owner and Middle Eastern food connoisseur gave out more than 600 of the sandwiches on Monday, Dec. 31 as part of the grand opening of his new Midtown location at 4704 Anthony Wayne Dr. in Detroit.

The original goal for Jaber was 1,000 sandwiches, but inclement weather held his plan back a bit. Still, once word got out on campus, customers started walking up in groups of 5-10 to see what all the fuss was about.

“First of all, I want to say that I really appreciate all the customers here and that's why I wanted to come back to campus and have a day like this,” Jaber said.

“I want everybody on campus to taste the real stuff, we make our falafel from scratch with all the right spices like they have in the Middle East and that's what we want to bring to the students.”

Jaber is so fond of falafel that he even has a license plate sporting the popular dish's namesake which has even drawn some people to pull him over to take pictures with it within the city of Detroit.

Harmonie Garden is located at 4704 Anthony Wayne Dr. in Detroit.
He said that about 70% of his customer base is comprised of vegetarians looking for new options in the area. “Tofu is just so plain, so boring,” Jaber said.

Jaber's restaurant began in 1993 at Harmonie Park more towards downtown Detroit before moving to Wayne State until 2004. He was back at Harmonie Park until 2009 before shifting back to the new location on the site of the old Tapper's Bar building. Now, customers, most of them students, sit at the bar to enjoy a cup of hot tea, a raw juice smoothie, or Arabic coffee while discussing the day's events in a relaxing, casual atmosphere.

“A lot of students come in here groups and end up staying for two to three hours just hanging out, drinking tea or Arabic coffee,” said hostess Nikki Patel. “It's a good atmosphere for students, it's very down-to-earth here.”

Graduate student Michael Schmitt said he was glad to see Harmonie Garden back and said he's been a patron for about 10 years.

“I'm very happy they're back over here, especially since I live just around the block,” he said.

“I'm a vegetarian and the flavor's great and you get a lot of choices here. The difference is in the preparation.”

Jaber watches as a customer takes one of his special falafel sandwiches. PHOTOS: Nick Meyer/TAAN
Customers especially like Jaber's own Flying Camel hot sauce, which is made from healthy ingredients such as cayenne pepper and olive oil. It's well-known across parts of the campus according to Jaber and the WSU School of Medicine is also a staple group of customers for Jaber as the students and faculty there tend to choose healthier options.

John Chetcuti is another long-time customer. “I think the students understand more about what it is to prepare truly healthy options fresh like he does every day and it's great that Harmonie Garden is back here,” he said.

Among the popular options offered by Harmonie Garden Cafe are a variety of vegetarian platters including mujadra, veggie stir fry, and more along with several falafel recipes including the fala burger, the BBQ falafel pita, and the “Flobby Joe,” a take on the Sloppy Joe sandwich with vegetarian chili sauce.

Seafood options, breakfast options like omelettes, meat platters, sandwiches and more are all offered and catering and delivery are available as well by calling 313.638.2345.

There is also a popular Sunday brunch from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. featuring Jaber's famous whole wheat nutty pancakes, fresh fruit, halal bacon and sausage, and Indian and Arabic food specialties among other specialty dishes.

By Nick Meyer

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