Rajah Gargour grew up in Lebanon (and Jordan), and has a singular but rather significant complaint about the state of his native cuisine in Seattle: “This food isn’t represented at all,” he says. “It doesn’t exist.” Hence his plan to open Cafe Munir, a casual neighborhood destination for Lebanese food in the Loyal Heights area of Ballard, near Golden Gardens.
The menu is all about mezze, a glorious array of as many as 40 little dishes, and spelled with two Zs in this instance. Gargour says the offerings will change seasonally and plans to work with local purveyors. He’s planning a rotating list of 15 to 20 vegetarian mezze, and another 15 to 20 with meat. Daily specials will be modernized versions of traditional Lebanese fare. While the country’s cuisine draws from a variety of influences, its basic flavors, says Gargour, include lots of parsley, lemon, and garlic, as well as allspice and cinnamon.
Gargour has lived in Seattle since 1993 and says his cooking resume includes Szmania’s in Magnolia, Eastlake’s Serafina and the former Marco’s Supper Club in Belltown. Before that, he cooked in England and ran a Mexican-style catering operation over there, oddly enough.
He’s taking over the space at 2408 NW 80th St, recently occupied by barbecue spot Gabriel’s Fire, and before that Zagi’s Pizza. Gargour says he’s been eyeing the address for years, usually as he dropped off one of his two children at the nearby elementary school. The official plan is an early December opening, but obviously any restaurant debut (especially those involving issue-prone older buildings) comes with a touch of uncertainty. Follow Cafe Munir’s blog for updates.