How To Succeed In Westport — With Really Trying

Kibberia is one of my favorite restaurants.

The Middle Eastern food is fantastic: fresh, healthful and flavorful. The prices are great. And Nick Iskandar is one of the nicest, happiest and most generally helpful restaurant owners I’ve ever met.

Nick Iskandar relaxes at Kibberia.

Nick Iskandar relaxes at Kibberia.

Kibberia recently marked its 1-year anniversary on the Westport-Norwalk town line (it’s on the site of the old John’s Best). That seemed like a good time to ask Nick what it takes to survive in this area’s cutthroat restaurant environment.

“The first few months were definitely not easy,” he says. The brutal winter weather kept many people home. The small plaza is not well lit; town regulations limit signage. Middle Eastern cuisine is unfamiliar to many diners.

Yet those were just bumps on the road to building a new business.

“When people taste it, they like it,” Nick says of his menu. He’s seen a steady increase in takeout orders. Nearly every day, he caters lunch for at least one office nearby. And — parents say — their kids love his hummus and falafels.

That’s one surprise. So is his wholesale sideline.

Some of the many intriguing dishes at Kibberia.

Some of the many intriguing dishes at Kibberia.

Unprompted, a customer suggested that Nick sell his products through stores like Mrs. Green’s.

It took a while, but he started in 4 locations. Now he’s in 15 — including items not in his restaurant.

He was surprised too when Patricia Brooks called last spring. She’d enjoyed her meal there, and planned to review it for the New York Times.

She gave it a “good” rating — in Times-speak, just a step below “phenomenal” — and that drove customers. So did a nice writeup in the Hearst papers.

Always, Nick is experimenting with what works. He began opening on Sundays. It’s his slowest day, but loyal customers want it.

He added live music on Saturdays, but BMI — the music rights firm — is coming after small businesses like his for licensing fees. So he’s cut back considerably.

KibberiaThis has been an enjoyable year for Nick. He’s learned a lot. The Westport Kibberia is different from his 1st location in Danbury: different customers, different rhythms, different expectations. Yet he’s adapted well — and is looking for a 3rd location, possibly in Mt. Kisco.

It’s not easy for any new business — particularly a restaurant — to survive here.

But — as his ever-growing customer base attests — the rewards can hit the spot.

11 responses to “How To Succeed In Westport — With Really Trying

  1. The Westport Democrtic Town Committee recently held it’s fall fundraiser at Kibberia. Nick and his team could not have been more helpful, the food was delicious, and the event was a huge success. Kibberia is also a great place to have a private event!

  2. We should try it!

    Sent from my iPhone


  3. Mabrouk Nick! Its great to hear of your success.

  4. We love the restaurant and the take out. The hummus is terrific!

  5. Kibberia is nothing short of EXCELLENT! Nick and his entire staff is gracious and the food is OUTSTANDING! I traveled to China several time this year and the first meal I craved upon my return was Kibberia everytime! If you have never tried it…give it a try! You will not be disappointed!

  6. Jill von Schmidt

    We were visiting family in Westport this summer, and they suggested we go to Kibberia for lunch. It was so good, I brought two of my college friends there for supper a couple days later. The food is fresh & delicious. If you haven’t been yet, go soon! You won’t be disappointed!

  7. Isabelle Breen

    We tried it after a previous 06880 post and loved it! have gone back several times since.