WILMINGTON — The man opening a new fast-casual Mediterranean restaurant next to Port City Java on Oleander grew up eating the dishes on his menu.
Bahaa Ibrahim was born in Egypt and spent his youth traveling the Middle East with his parents, also living in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia before his family immigrated to Los Angeles in 1982.
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Ibrahim is well acquainted with the Wilmington food scene, running his own restaurants in downtown Wilmington — Charlotte Uptown Eatery and BB’s Burgers and Brews — before spending the next 15 years as a manager for local restaurateur Ash Aziz and his Circa Restaurant Group.
Last November, Ibrahim stepped away from his role managing Boca Bay near the Wrightsville Beach drawbridge to start Sofra Modern Mediterranean, which he hopes to open in the next two weeks (pending a blessing from the New Hanover County Health Department).
Over the years, people in Wilmington have developed more international tastes, he said, and he expects a healthy Mediterranean option to be especially welcome.
“If you asked me 20 years ago about opening up a Mediterranean restaurant in Wilmington, I would’ve probably said no,” Ibrahim said. “But I think now is a good opportunity — a lot of people have traveled and tasted that kind of food. And a lot of people are now in the mood for healthy food, and Mediterranean food is very healthy.”
The menu will be simple: Levantine (eastern Mediterranean) salads like Fattoush and Tabbouleh, shawarmas, kabobs, and of course, the deep-fried falafel balls popular throughout the Middle East. The falafels will be prepared in the Egyptian tradition, according to Ibrahim, which uses green fava beans rather than yellow banza (chickpea) beans more common in other areas in the region.
View the current menu below:
There will also be certain daily specials, depending on what’s available in local farmers’ markets.
Ibrahim said he had kept his eyes on the location until a Myrtle Beach pizza outfit rented the place last year, but they never did anything with it. When it became available again, he knew the time was right.
“It was a good opportunity to jump on,” he said.
And he expects the location on the crowded Oleander Avenue, next to the Oleander Oaks offices and down the road from a future 223-apartment complex, to provide him a healthy client base of residents, professionals, and those driving by.
Sofra Modern Mediterranean is located at 5709 Oleander Avenue. Construction is wrapping up, and Ibrahim hopes to open as soon.
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