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After popular Cafe Falafel restaurant closes, community rallies to raise money for new place

Posted at 4:42 PM, Nov 30, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-30 18:11:32-05

He makes his food with a little passion and a lot of spice.

"It's not a job, it's like marriage," Ehab Enaia laughed.

Enaia was the proud owner of Cafe Falafel on Riveredge Road near Fairview Hospital for about four years.

"It was a small place and we had these little tables," he said.

Small, but mighty. Hundreds of customers rushed into the restaurant each week, but not just for the Mediterranean cuisine - they also came for the community.

"It was the most, I want to call it, magical place that we all used to gather," said loyal customer Dori Lehmann.

But that magic faded last year when Enaia lost his parking lot, and with it his customers. For now, he has a pop up shop inside Fairview Hospital's lunchroom, but it's just not the same. Closing his doors, he says, was the hardest thing he's had  to do since coming to the U.S.

"I had a small book bag and just a few stuff, I was staying for probably a month," said Enaia.

But during his trip here, Enaia learned that he could never go back home

"The border between Gaza, where I'm from, and Egypt got shut down and its the only way you can go in or out," he said.

So he became a U.S. citizen and started a new life. He got married, had kids and merged his two worlds with the food from his homeland - food loyal customers like Lehmann says she can't live without.

"I love the shawarma, I love the baba ganoush," she said.

So she and a few other community members launched a Kickstarter campaign for Enaia to open a brand new restaurant. This one will be called Salam Cafe.

"Salam Cafe means peace," Enaia said. "Where I come from, that area hasn't seen peace for like 2,000 thousand years I think."

Peace and a little hope.

"It gives me hope that maybe I can put this family back together," he said.