New eatery brings sweet Mediterranean tastes to Claremont
Abdallah Soueidan moved to the United States from Lebanon in the 1970s with the intent of seeking a new start, but some things are too good to leave behind.
While a proud American citizen, Mr. Soueidan regularly honors one of his favorite aspects of his Lebanese background, the cuisine. Through his latest venture, Al Amir Flatbread—recently opened next door to Super King Market—Mr. Soueidan is integrating the savory selections of his Mediterranean roots with some all-American culinary classics for the general public.
This South Claremont food establishment is a happy blend of east meets west. The doughy creations served hot from the establishment’s wood-fired oven provides the comforts of the popular pizza pie with a middle eastern flair, inspired by the classic Lebanese classic flatbread, also referred to as man’oushe.
In Lebanon, bustling marketplaces are lined with man’oushe stands where hungry patrons may hand over their own vegetables and cheeses to be incorporated with the freshly made flatbread dough provided by the merchant. It’s a fresh and easy meal to-go, Mr. Soueidan explains. While Al Amir’s quick creations offer convenience and low prices—10-inch flatbreads ranging from $1.75 to $5.99—customers don’t have to worry about the meal prep.
“Leave it to us,” Mr. Soueidan insists.
The longtime restaurateur is more than happy to do the cooking.
“I enjoy the satisfaction of seeing people enjoy a good meal and you see how happy they are,” Mr. Soueidan said. “It gives you a good feeling to see that something you have given someone is being appreciated. That is what drove me to own my own place.”
Mr. Soueidan is no stranger to the restaurant realm, having worked his way up to restaurant owner after years working in the culinary business. He began as a busboy upon his arrival in the United States in 1977. He later became a server before moving his way up to chef and eventually owning his own restaurant. His first eatery, the original Al Amir location, opened in Anaheim in 2002, and proved more successful than he imagined. Within a matter of years he opened a second location, and watched as others in Anaheim followed suit. Within 7 years of Al Amir’s opening, 8 other flatbread locations had opened.
The quick cropping of Lebanese flatbread establishments hasn’t cutback from his profits, however. Mr. Soueidan was quick to snatch up a third location when he heard there was a vacancy next door to Claremont’s international market, Super King. As he predicted, business is already off to a good start.
“I have seen so many familiar faces that I used to see in Anaheim. They are so happy they don’t have to drive out to Anaheim to visit us now,” Mr. Soueidan said.
While providing the flavor profiles that regulars savor—like the classic Lebanese Zaatar and Cheese, sprinkled with fresh herbs—Mr. Soueidan has come up with some creations of his own for cautious newcomers. For those new to Al Amir, he recommends trying his new chipotle chicken flatbread, providing those new to the flavor combinations with just enough spice. The owner’s personal favorite, however, remains the Soujouk, which is characterized by a smoky Armenian sausage. He suggests rolling the warm flatbread up with tomato and pickle, and devouring the whole thing like a sandwich.
Mr. Soueidan isn’t the only culinary mastermind at Al Amir Flatbread. He is happy to share duties with his wife, Sanaa, whom he deems an excellent and innovative cook. He credits his wife with creating many of the items found on the Al Amir menu, including the Keshek flatbread, laden with onions, tomatoes and a yogurt mix.
The couple happily shares culinary responsibilities, Ms. Soueidan feeding the troops at home while her husband keeps busy elbow-deep in flatbread dough. Though the workload has just gotten bigger, Mr. Soueidan is at peace in his new Claremont kitchen.
“It’s always been a dream,” said Mr. Soueidan of having a series of restaurants to call his own. “It’s finally become a reality.”
Al Amir Flatbread, located at 865 S. Indian Hill Blvd. next to Super King market, is open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. In observation of those fasting for Ramadan, the bakery will reopen from midnight to 3 a.m. For more information, call 625-0500, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.alamirbakery.com.