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FRIDAY FLAVOR: Baladi Mediterranean Cafe in Virginia Beach

The Virginia Beach cafe is giving people a taste of an "Authentic Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine."

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Khaled Jabrail grew up in a large family. Food was a love language in his household. So, when he moved to the states from the Middle East 20 years ago, food was at the top of his mind. "First thing was I had to get a burger. I had never had a hamburger," he smiled.

Khaled lived in New York for years, but "chef" wasn't an official title. "I'm a computer engineer who can do okay with computers, but I love to cook, and I love to feed people," Jabrail went on, talking about his love of feeding others. He couldn't keep away from the restaurant business with an attitude like that, so in 2008, Jabrail turned away from being a computer engineer and became chef and owner of Baladi Mediterranean Cafe in Virginia Beach.

Baladi Cafe is more than just a restaurant to Jabrail. It's a piece of home. "This is a connection for my roots," Jabrail grabbed his heart in pride and continued speaking. "I feel like I keep connected with my culture, and I keep introducing people from all different backgrounds to this nice cuisine," he nodded.

Jabrail said the description of his food is simple, "Authentic Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine," he smiled. The food here is rich with flavor, and everything at Baladi Cafe gets made in-house. "100 percent of everything we make, except one dessert, I'll be honest, is from scratch by hand, and people can taste that, and they can see that," Jabrail said.

When it comes to the food, there are plenty of choices. "We have meat options. We have seafood options. We have vegan options. We have vegetarian options. What makes the food a little bit different in terms of flavor profile and whatnot. We use very hefty use of organic olive oil, fresh lemon juice, fresh herbs, which brings out a lot of flavors," Jabrail boasted over the endless options they can create.

The popular menu items are a chicken kabob platter and a hummus platter. Plus, when it comes to dessert, don't forget to try their Baklava. It's less butter, so healthier for you, but you won't be able to tell. For Jabrail, creating the dishes is one of his favorite parts of the job. "The best moment is when you put the food on the plate. I feel like a little Picasso, you know?" he smiled. And when he's not painting his plates, he's working to make health a priority. "It's not just about the food you put in. It's also about you giving yourself a break and trying to enjoy it as much as you can," said Jabrail. He spoke about the importance of taking a moment for yourself, relating it to how he grew up in the Middle East. "People there take hours to eat and relax, yet here in the states, because of our busy lives, we don't give the food the food [time] that it deserves when we are sitting down, relaxing and eating," he said.

Because people need that time to relax, that's why Jabrail said the atmosphere and hospitality of Baladi Cafe are so essential. He works to make this spot a place that feels like home. Jabrail says he believes food can bring people together, and that's all he wants to do at Baladi Cafe.

They also have a wholesale side of the business. Inside, Baladi Cafe sells their house olive oil, spices, and other sauces. Plus, exciting news for this fall. Baladi Cafe is expanding. They are renting out the spaces next door. This creates the opportunity to expand the dining room and the wholesale side of the business.

If you'd like to visit Baladi Mediterranean Cafe, you can visit the restaurant at 626 Hilltop West Shopping Center, Virginia Beach, VA 23451.