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A taste of the delicious Mideast at Zakey

Al Parker - December 15th, 2008
Restaurant owner Nabiel Musleh is a man on a mission.
“My goal is to provide the most delectable excellent Arabic food experience in Northern Michigan,” says the outgoing owner of Zakey, a cozy little eatery tucked behind Roy’s General Store at the intersection of Three Mile and Hammond roads, south of Traverse City.
A native of Jordan, Musleh came to this country as a teen to get an education. He accomplished that goal by earning three college degrees and soon forged a career of restaurant management. Over the years he worked for a number of restaurants, including Wendy’s, Taco Bell, TGIF, Red Lobster, Applebees, Perkins and Minerva’s.
“Growing up, I had eight brothers and three sisters,” says Musleh. “My Mom would be cooking in the kitchen all day long. When we all got together, it was a celebration.
In 2006, while working two jobs, Musleh ran a booth out of Folgarelli’s Import Food Market on Traverse City’s busy Front Street. Later he brought Middle Eastern fare to Minerva’s at the Park Place Hotel.
“I did Middle Eastern food at Minerva’s and the response was overwhelming,” he says. “I decided to fill the void for Middle Eastern food in Traverse City.”

Encouraged by his customers and inspired by his 10-year-old son, Adam, Musleh began looking for a location for his dream restaurant. He looked downtown and on 14th Street, but chose his current location because he could finance it without a bank loan.
It’s a cozy cottage restaurant with a colorful orange and teal interior. There’s seating for 20 to 30. In the spring he plans to offer outdoor dining on a small patio.
“I was told that people will seek you out and that’s been true,” says Musleh, who does all of the cooking at Zakey. “Business has been very good.”
Zakey, which means “delicious” in Arabic, opened in August and offers a full assortment of tasty Middle Eastern fare.
You might want to start with a three-piece order of spinach pies baked fresh daily ($3.99). Or sample the Middle Eastern Mazza plate featuring hummus, babba gonouge (mashed, baked eggplant with garlic, tahini and lemon juice), tabouli (cracked wheat mixed with fresh parsley, tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, olive oil and lemon juice) and falafel (ground chick peas, parsley and sesame seeds that are quick-fried). It’s an impressive sample plate bargain at only $7.99
Salad lovers will want to try the Arabic salad filled with tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and fresh mint tossed with olive oil and lemon juice ($4.99). Another traditional and tasty salad is made with fresh cucumber, yogurt, garlic and fresh mint ($4.99). A hearty Shawarma Salad features chicken or lamb piled on a bed of mixed greens and topped with tomatoes, cucumbers and tahini sauce ($6.99).

Many people may be familiar with such Middle Eastern staples as hummus, pita bread or tabouli. But there’s a whole array of unique dishes that Musleh is introducing to his customers.
For example, Zakey’s menu offers eight different sandwich selections, all with a Middle Eastern flavor. You might try a pocket wrapped shawarma of lamb or chicken marinated in spices, then broiled and served with onion, parsley and tahini sauce ($5.99). The shish kabob pita wrap has broiled lamb, tomatoes and onions in pita bread ($6.00). The shish tawook is a chicken version ($5.50), while the shish kafta is seasoned beef blended with parsley, onion and garlic that is hand rolled and broiled with tomatoes and onions in pita bread ($6.25). Add salad or fries for $1.99 more.
Dinner entrees at Zakey include stuffed grape leaves with ground lamb, rice, onion and spices ($9.95); roasted lamb that’s been marinated in olive oil, garlic and fresh lemon juice ($11.95); and mojadara, a rice pilaf cooked with lentils and topped with fresh sauteed onions ($7.95). The menu also includes a chicken entree that’s been marinated for 24-hours then slowly broiled ($10.95) and a combination platter of shish kafta, shish tawook and shish kabob ($13.99). All entrees come with pita bread, sauteed rice pilaf with ground lamb, almonds and pine nuts or a choice of two sides: cucumber salda, Arabic salad, fatoush, tabouli or vegetables of the day.
Dessert choices include a three-piece order of baklawa, rice pudding, tiramsu, ice cream and a daily dessert special.

Zakey is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m Monday through Saturday and is available for private parties. Takeout and Catering is available by calling (231) 946-4533. For more information go to

  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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