By Pete Dulin
Business is steady at Meddys, a fast-casual Mediterranean restaurant and bar in Brookside. Founder Alex Harb opened the venue in early October, installing his popular eatery concept in the former Panera Bread space on Brookside Plaza. Harb also operates five locations in Wichita, Kansas, where Meddys originated, and another in Prairie Village, Kansas.
In Brookside, the stylish space features a palette of forest green and black tiles, blond wood, warm gray flooring, russet-colored banquette seating, metallic green upholstered bar stools, black furnishings, and creamy white accents. Whether dining for lunch or settling in for happy hour, the setting is distinctly not the bland corporate or industrial utilitarian look ubiquitous at nationwide fast-casual chains. Instead, Meddys feels like a place you can relax, gab with a friend or co-worker, and rave about the food.
Since the eatery’s inception in 2014, Harb, who grew up in Lebanon, has focused on preparing and serving Lebanese-Mediterranean dishes. The menu is inspired by his mother’s traditional home-cooked recipes and his father’s grocery store filled with spices in their homeland.
“Lebanese cuisine is based on three main ingredients – garlic, olive oil, and lemon juice. The garlic and lemon juice we use in our dishes is made fresh daily. It doesn’t taste the same the next day,” Harb says.
That trinity of base ingredients is evident throughout Meddys’ offerings from hummus prepared from fresh-cooked garbanzo beans to falafels made from scratch each day.
“We focus on freshness. Mediterranean cuisine has no preservatives. I grew up where everyone has a garden with ripe tomatoes, garlic, and mint,” says Harb, reminiscing of his childhood.
Meddys menu begins with hearty bowls and platters. The hummus stacked bowl features a protein of choice with roasted vegetables, parsley, and hummus. Handheld shawarmas include beef, chicken, salmon, lamb, vegetable, and falafel options. The savory Grilled Grazer packs beef kefta, or seasoned beef meatballs, with tomato-onion relish and hummus in a thin, crisp pita. Sides include baba ghanoush made with fire-roasted eggplant, fattoush salad, lentil soup, garlic potatoes, and more.
Noteworthy, complementary handmade pita is offered for dine-in guests. Served warm, the pita is ideal for dipping into robust olive oil seasoned with fresh-ground salt, pepper, and dried herbs (all available tableside). Harb intentionally sources the thick, chewy pita from a 100-year-old New York bakery.
“Originally, pita in the Middle East was used as a utensil to pick up and hold food. It’s thin and dry. I wanted my pita to smell and taste like bread,” Harb explains.
Overall, the menu is a healthy alternative to fast food. Guests can choose among selections (including dairy-free, gluten-free, and vegetarian options) loaded with vibrant flavor. Meddys complements the diverse variety of restaurants found along Brookside Plaza, from mainstays like Italian fare at Carmen’s Cafe to Edomae sushi and Japanese entrees at Sayachi. Judging from the steady flow of guests dining in and picking up to-go orders, there’s clearly room for a flavor-forward concept like Meddys.
Harb hasn’t always been a restaurateur. He moved from Lebanon to attend Wichita State University. While in Wichita, Harb worked as a restaurant server to earn money. Later, he opened and operated a retail computer store for a decade. As the retail environment changed over time, Harb found himself drawn to the restaurant industry where he could interact more with employees and customers.
“I’m a social creature. I like people. I had a passion for working in restaurants,” Harb says.
Since opening his first location, Harb has learned to maintain an open mind, be flexible, and adapt to changing environments as a business owner and leader. That attitude impacts Meddys friendly, customer-focused service throughout a guest’s entire visit. Their attentive, relationship-building approach is not commonly found at fast-casual restaurants. Often service evaporates once the transaction has been completed.
Harb starts each day with a thought. Ninety-nine percent of people on the planet want to be successful. As an owner, what do I have to do to help my team be successful?” Harb says.
He poses three questions to himself and his employees. “One, what can we possibly do to make it crazy for each guest to choose to go dine someplace else? Two, what can I do to make it crazy for an employee to want to work someplace else? Three, what can we do as a team to hold each other accountable and be proud of the results?”
Harb seeks to “hire those same people on the planet who want to be successful, give them the tools to do so, and hold them accountable. My team are the boots on the ground to get it done. They are the source of all value creation.”
That philosophy shows in the engaging service from multiple team members at Meddys.
After being open for a month in Brookside, Harb shares his gratitude for the reception his business has received. Harb says, “The Brookside community has been amazing. They have been supportive since the day we opened here. There’s so much support and love in this tight-knit community.”