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Best friends hope San Diegans switch from fish tacos to falafel

The concept of Tahini was so unique it caught the eye of the "Mayor of Flavortown" himself, Guy Fieri, who showcased the restaurant on the Food Network.

SAN DIEGO — Is it possible to win a Nobel Peace Prize for food? In this Zevely Zone, I went to Kearny Mesa where friendship and flavor are colliding at Tahini.  

If you're going to dream big, why not do it with your best friend? Ever since they were kids, Moody Barkawi and Osama Shabaik have been inseparable.

"For a while we drove the same truck, we both had Tacoma's," said Osama and Moody. The best friends share a lot in common. Both are married, both are 33-years-old and both are first generation Americans. "My parents were both born in Egypt," said Osama. "Both my parents were born in Syria," said Moody.

Credit: Tahini

In the Arab culture, family and food go hand in hand.  "I don't know how many times we have driven from here to Los Angeles and spent three hours in a car just to try out a new restaurant," said Moody. They wanted to open their own restaurant, but Osama's plate was already full. "I was working at a law firm for a summer, I was in law school," said Osama. Moody then added, "Harvard Law School by the way, he hates telling people, but I like to throw it out there as like a proud parent." Not many people walk away from a Harvard Law degree. "I did end up finishing it off," said Osama.  

Credit: Tahini

They started selling Middle Eastern street food at farmers markets and gas stations. It was such a hit, their restaurant Tahini was born. "You walk in, and you get hit with the smell of the bread," said Moody. 

The concept was so unique it caught the eye of Guy Fieri, who aired a seven-minute segment on the restaurant on the Food Network. "We definitely want to be a household name is San Diego," said Osama.  

Credit: Tahini

Moody and Osama share their food but also their success by hiring immigrants and refugees. "Do you get people who you get people that you hire who are from war torn countries? Yeah, we've had actually quite a few who are from Syria, from Iraq who had to pick up and leave everything that they knew. Some of them were doctors, dentists, engineers," said the best friends.

Credit: Tahini

For San Diegans hooked on fish tacos and burgers, it may be time to expand your palate. "This is our falafel or cheese sticks served with fig jam, very good," said Moody. "This is our sandwiches, the chicken pita, steak pita, this is our salad, our hummus, and then salad and rice bowl."

Credit: Tahini

I had one question. "Where are the Tahini fries?" Moody laughed, "Yes. Good question." Throughout our shoot customers raved about the fries. "The Tahini fries are the most popular," said Moody.  

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"Tomato, onion, bell pepper, olives, pepperoncini's, feta cheese, garlic and Tahini," said Moody as I ate Tahini Fries. "Some people have said we should be up for a Nobel Peace Prize for this one," said Moody.

Tahini received the Critic's Pick for Best Middle Eastern Food in San Diego Magazine's Best Restaurant 2022 edition.  

The best friends are opening a second Tahini location at UCSD as well as a coffee shop in Kearney Mesa next to their current location. For more information visit Tahini.

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