Name: Samantha Younes
What inspired you to open Zahra? My family owns Aladdin Restaurant in Allentown, and at Aladdin we offer sit down, fine dining, authentic Middle Eastern cuisine. I have always wanted to offer our food in a more street food/ grab-and-go approach but still maintain the quality. For example, Kefta, which is a mix of ground beef and lamb grilled and topped with tahini and veggies, is served as an entrée at Aladdin: two kabobs with rice and our house salad. But at Zahra I switched it up to a kefta burger on a brioche bun so it’s quick but still delicious.
What makes your food different from similar restaurants in the Lehigh Valley? Everything is made from scratch on premises using my Mom’s recipes that have been in our family for generations.
Why did you want to open your restaurant in Downtown Allentown? I was born and raised in Allentown and I was excited about the renaissance of Downtown Allentown. I saw the market as the perfect opportunity to be a part of it.
What’s your favorite part of being in the Downtown Allentown Market? The comradery among the vendors. We all get along really well and often help each other out when needed. It’s nice to have that, especially in the fast-paced industry we’re in.
What’s your signature menu item? Chicken Shawarma wrap with Zahra fries.
Do you serve alcoholic beverages? Yes, we serve a variety of local and regional beers.
Will you be adding any new menu items this year? I am planning to officially add chicken shawarma nachos to the menu since it is a popular special. I am also planning to add a Middle Eastern fava bean salad.
What do you like to do for fun when you’re not at the Downtown Allentown Market? When I’m not at the Market I am probably at our sister location, Aladdin! Outside of work, I love to hang with my friends and family and travel whenever possible!