Kibberia Fills Stomachs — And A Middle Eastern Niche

Some restaurants open in Westport with all the hype of a Hollywood blockbuster. The Little Barn, Post 154, Bartaco, Spotted Horse — you’d have to be living without a stomach to not know they’ve arrived.

For a couple of months though, another restaurant has quietly served some of the best — and freshest, and healthiest — food in town.

KibberiaKibberia opened in the former John’s Best Post Road West location, on the Norwalk line. The name is a takeoff on kibbeh, a delicious Lebanese dish of ground lamb with bulgar wheat, onions and seasonings — think “kibberia,” like “pizzeria.”

But that’s where the comparisons with John’s Best end.

Owner Nick Iskandar took out walls, added colorful chairs and nice lights, and created a warm, comfortable space. Workers flock there at lunch from nearby offices; families love it for dinner.

Finally, Westport has a Middle Eastern restaurant to complement all our pizzerias and hip gathering spots.

Nick’s sister-in-law Carole Iskandar is the chef. She came to the US 30 years from Lebanon to study, landing in — of all places — Louisiana. Her cousin lived there; besides, French-educated Carole thought the Cajun influence would remind her of home.

Of course, Louisiana is nothing like Lebanon — or the Northeast US, where she moved when her husband got a job with Nynex.

Carole always wanted to open a restaurant, and after her 3 children were grown, she got the chance. Her 1st Kibberia was in Danbury. It quickly developed a reputation for fresh, healthy food, served casually and lovingly (and very inexpensively).

Nick had also gone to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, earning a degree in electrical engineering. He returned to Lebanon in the 1990s, but hoped to come back to the States. When Carole got a chance to open the Westport Kibberia, he came.

The Iskandars -- Carole and Nick -- take a brief break at Kibberia.

The Iskandars — Carole and Nick — take a brief break at Kibberia.

The other day, the pair served up fantastic food. The very popular lentil soup is different from the American variety. This one has no cream or milk — but savory red lentils.

The falafel featured fresh herbs and seasoning. Shish kebab came with a garlic sauce that customers tell the Iskandars to bottle and sell. A lentil dish with sauteed onions, rice and cabbage salad offered wonderful flavor.

Pita bead is thin and moist. There are flatbreads with healthy toppings — a Mediterranean-style pizza. Soups are all homemade; salads are fully customizable. The Iskandars use no preservatives or MSG.

Wines come from Turkey and Lebanon. Kibberia also stocks very good Lebanese beer. But Nick and Carole are fine if customers bring their own favorite bottles. It’s that kind of homey, happy place.

Westporters are sophisticated, Nick says. They know Middle Eastern food — and love its benefits. “Mothers feed hummus to their 2-year-olds,” he notes with pride.

Some of the many intriguing dishes at Kibberia.

Some of the many intriguing dishes at Kibberia.

About that kibbeh: Carole cooks up pumpkin, lentil, potato and vegetarian varieties.

“Vegans love this restaurant,” she says. There’s even a vegan baklava.

Also loving Kibberia: trainers from nearby gyms, like Intensity and the Edge. They eat there — and send clients over. “Trainers know no matter how hard people work, if they don’t eat right, they won’t see results,” Nick says.

He and Carole say some women “force” their husbands to come. “The men, they hear ‘healthy food’ and think they won’t like it,” Nick says. “But once they try it, they completely change. They come back, and now they bring their wives.”

Nick and Carole have loved meeting Westporters, turning them into passionate customers — and friends.

Has anything surprised them about this town?

“People are so friendly,” Carole says. “They even thank us for opening here.”

(Click here for the menu, which includes takeout. Kibberia is closed Sundays, but will open 7 days a week after New Year’s.)

14 responses to “Kibberia Fills Stomachs — And A Middle Eastern Niche

  1. The food is amazing and everyone working there is extremely friendly and extra accommodating. Certainly, Kibberia is one of the best values around for super fresh and delicious Middle Western food! Yum!!!!

  2. Love the restaurant! Would recommend to all. Great food that is delicious and healthy.

  3. Julie Van Norden

    Thanks for this post! I have driven by this restaurant many times and now can’t wait to try it. Love Middle Eastern food!

  4. If you enjoy Middle Eastern food, and you like to cook, I STRONGLY recommend the cookbook “Jerusalem”. I make the hummus every few days because it gets eaten so quickly.

  5. Correction…Middle Eastern food….

  6. Marina Evenstein

    Very surprised that this place is not yet that popular, it was practically empty on a Saturday evening both times we came in. We love the food, the service and the vibes of this place. (my favorite is the cabbage lentil salad!) Kids loved their unique chicken soup and also…. it’s BYOB. Great place for informal dinner or family celebration.

  7. We have been going there on a regular basis since it opened. Hopefully Dan’s blog will generate interest and patronage. Every time we’ve been there the food is delicious, fresh, and healthy. The service is friendly- just order at the counter and they bring it to your table. And it is very reasonably priced!! Hope this place is around for a long time!!

  8. Nick and Carole were very friendly and accommodating to my family. We walked in when they were getting ready to close. They fired the grills back up and didn’t rush us out.

  9. Thank you Dan and thank you all for your kind comments! It’s because of people like you that we love this business! Hope to see more happy faces at Kibberia!!!

  10. Corn dogs and deep fried snicker bars… Yikes!

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