Charleston to Wait a Few More Days For Lebanese Cooking (And, Possibly, Armenian Singing)

Leyla will not open this weekend, as previously announced, but the downtown Lebanese restaurant is aiming to have its doors open by Wednesday.

“I was hoping,” says owner Dolly Awkar, a first-time restaurateur who switched from selling rugs to hawking hummus because her accent prompted so many customers to ask where they could find food from her native country. “I did my best.”

The Labor Day holiday delayed the issuance of a certificate of occupancy; Leyla is scheduled for city inspection on Tuesday.

Awkar and her husband, Joseph, have spent much of the last month training servers, many of whom have no previous experience with Middle Eastern cookery, and tasting dishes created by chef Vatche Meguerdichian. Meguerdichian previously helmed Los Angeles’ Alcazar, named one of the city’s 99 essential restaurants in 2011 by critic Jonathan Gold. Continue reading

Code Concerns Didn’t Force Jestine’s Kitchen to Close

jestintJestine’s Kitchen was not facing any citations for building code violations prior to its sudden closure, a city spokeswoman today confirmed.

According to Charleston spokeswoman Barbara Vaughn, none of the city’s departments charged with code enforcement were involved with the downtown restaurant when it abruptly shut down last Thursday afternoon. The timing of the closure and reference to “renovations” on the restaurant’s outgoing voice mail message had led some patrons to speculate that the 1949 building had failed inspection.

Although Strange still hasn’t contacted the Post & Courier, she yesterday told WCSC’s  Raphael James that she’d decided to close the restaurant so she could redo the kitchen floor and plumbing. Asked whether the decision was sudden, she said, “I’m a woman.” Whether the comment was made in earnest or jest wasn’t clear from the report.