Middle Eastern food on the go: Harmonie Express offers fresh and affordable ‘fast food’

The Middle Eastern restaurant that we know and love is now ‘express.’ Harmonie Express, the takeout version of Harmonie Garden, is every bit as tasty as the original “Home of the Falafel.”

Harmonie Express opened in early September and offers customers quick, steamy and freshly made falafel, sandwiches and platters to-go. In 2010, Harmonie Garden moved from its first location in Harmonie Park to Wayne State’s campus on Anthony Wayne Drive. Since 1993, the restaurant has offered a generation of friendly service, unique dishes and more than fair prices to its dedicated customers.

As Harmonie Garden attracted old customers from downtown, Taher Jaber, the owner of the restaurant and WSU alumnus, decided to open a location that primarily focused on takeout and delivery. Harmonie Express delivers to areas like WSU’s campus, Greektown and Corktown.

The new, quick-serve location offers many of the same items as the restaurant on Anthony Wayne Drive. Small appetizers and soups range from $2-5, and meat and vegetarian pitas cost $4-5. Larger portioned platters serve meat with rice or fries, salad and hummus and are offered for $10.

“Harmonie Garden’s menu is based on our customers,” Jaber said. “You can’t find our menu items anywhere else in the area … because we created it.”

Jaber’s drive to offer Middle Eastern food to Detroiters, stemmed during his travels to Jerusalem, Palestine, where he learned to master the craft of falafel making. Learning from the chef of a popular restaurant, Jaber took his teachings from Palestine and applied them to his recipes at his restaurant, where he also spiced up his recipes with his Syrian roots.

Just as the restaurants, falafel is always rising in demand. The “Chicken Sultan” is another all-time favorite. The chicken Sultan dish, a popular option, as Jaber recalled, was a recipe that all started when a customer named Sultan ordered a chicken sandwich. When it came to his table, he asked for spinach to be added. When the spinach was added, he asked for Swiss cheese and rice to be added on the top. Then another customer walked in, saw the appetizing dish and asked for the same meal. From then on, it was named the “Chicken Sultan.”

Jaber said that without his customers, his restaurant chain wouldn’t be what it is today.

“My customers are the biggest influence in my business,” he said.

Harmonie Express employee Khalipha Kane, said that customer service is an important key to Harmonie Garden’s success.

“We know the customers, we have a personal relationship,” Kane said. “We know their names, their voices over the phone, what they want to order. The food is made how they want it, without any problems. I think that’s what separates us from other restaurants.”

Just as customer service is an important concept to Harmonie, Jaber explains that the restaurant chain concentrates on serving vegetarian and vegan options to its customers, especially since many vegetarian WSU students are in search of meals that accommodate their eating habits.

With fruit smoothies, appetizers like fattoush and tabouli and meals such as falafel, grape leaves and various veggie combinations, healthy meal options are an important key to “the Harmonie way,” as Jaber calls it.

“About 70 percent of our menu is vegetarian,” Jaber pointed out.

Jaber said that he plans to extend Harmonie Express’ hours of operation to 24-hours in the coming months.

“With the encouragement of the police department and encouragement of Corktown people, I hope to offer healthy food to the people of Detroit at any time of the day or night,” Jaber said.

Next time you order takeout from Harmonie Express or eat at Harmonie Garden, be sure to try some of the restaurants most popular dishes: BBQ Falafel, Chicken Sultan, Fala Mancoosh and the Fala Burger.

Harmonie Express is located at 1366 W. Ford Street and offers free parking to customers. Harmonie Express is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays. For more information, visit harmoniegarden.com or call 313-965-9121.

Contact Arts and Entertainment Editor Mayssa Masri: 248-924-7406 or mayssamasri.tse@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter: @mayssamasri

Photo credit: Sarah Rahal

Full article via The South End

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