WILMINGTON — Saturday will be the last day of service at Sofra, a casual Mediterranean eatery located at 5709 Oleander Dr. next to Port City Java.
“I tried to sell it for somebody to keep Sofra,” owner Bahaa Ibrahim explained. “But a few people who came to look at the space, they wanted to do something else.”
He said restaurateur Toan Van has plans to open Yaki Express, a sushi and hibachi restaurant, in coming months.
For now, Ibrahim will turn his attention toward self-care and sleep.
”It’s been exhausting,” he said of the last two years.
Ibrahim opened Sofra one week before the pandemic shuttered businesses statewide. He confirmed he almost closed, not only because of Covid but Hurricane Isaias that hit in 2020. Inflation has been the latest struggle.
“Everything just went up — products, labor,” Ibrahim said. “Selling was just a business decision more than anything, even though I really love this very much.”
Sofra served fresh Mediterranean cuisine with a modern flair — falafel, shawarma, kabobs, plus salads, including tabbouleh, baba ghanouj, grain bowls and daily specials. Originally from the Middle East, the restaurateur focused on Americanized flavors at his former establishments.
Ibrahim owned his first operations in Wilmington from 1996 to 2004. Charlotte’s Uptown Eatery was located downtown on Front Street (formerly Chops and now Beach Bagels, located beside the post office). He also owned BB’s Burger and Brew, which he sold to Nikki Spears who first opened Nikki’s Sushi on Front Street before Johnny Chen purchased it in the mid 2000s.
Ibrahim then worked for Ash Aziz of the Circa Restaurant Group for 15 years and managed Boca Bay for six. In 2019, Boca, along with Brasserie du Soleil and Osteria Cicchetti, was sold to Urban Food Group.
“Ash really encouraged me to open another business, which I wanted to do again,” Ibrahim said.
Whether or not another restaurant is on the horizon is unknown; Ibrahim said the food industry is all he knows. He isn’t necessarily looking for another career, just taking advantage of a break.
“Right now, it’s just rest and relaxation more than anything else,” he said. “Catch up on visits to my orthodontist and my doctor — maybe I’ll find something else to do.”
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