NORTHFIELD CENTER — Eight years ago, 7 to 7 Mediterranean Eatery owner Elie Sleiman owned a Mediterranean restaurant in Houston. Two years later, he sold the restaurant, which is still in business, and moved to Northeast Ohio.
"The weather there is too hot," he said of Houston. "With all the tornadoes and hurricanes, I got a good offer and sold it and came up here."
Following the move, he owned a Subway franchise, but his dream was always to open another Mediterranean restaurant.
Now, Houston's loss is Northfield's gain as Sleiman and his family have opened 7 to 7 Mediterranean Eatery at 500 W. Aurora Road, in May. The restaurant celebrated its grand opening July 7.
"I've been in the food industry for 22 years," said Sleiman.
The menu includes a variety of traditional Mediterranean dishes, appetizers and salads, including a variety of rolled pitas, kebab dishes, falafel, tabouleh, quinoa salad and more, including pasta dishes and burgers.
"Hummus is our number one item," said Sleiman. Other popular dishes include chicken kebabs, sandwiches, and gyros. "At our restaurant, we pride ourselves on having something for everybody. We have vegetarian food or we have burgers."
Sleiman said he recently tried testing gyros, and they were very popular. Now, he said he's considering adding them to the regular menu.
"We do not cut corners when it comes to our ingredients," he said. "We take pride in our food that we produce and prepare with love. Our food doesn't only taste good; it's good for you. It's inspired by traditions of the days of old. We do everything fresh; we do everything from scratch."
Owning his own Mediterranean restaurant gives Sleiman freedom he did not have as a Subway franchisee.
"This is our culture; I am Lebanese," he said. "I have family living there. Being a Subway franchisee, you don't have that much freedom to do what you want."
In addition the Mediterranean menu, 7 to 7 also offers a traditional breakfast menu, including Belgian waffles, skillet dishes, omelettes and more.
Among the breakfast dishes, there are a couple nods to the restaurant's Mediterranean DNA, including the Mediterranean omelette, which includes spinach, onions, tomatoes, olives and feta cheese.
In addition to his experience with his prior Mediterranean restaurant and heritage, Sleiman also has a culinary arts degree and business degree.
"The restaurant business is a very delicate business," he said, adding owners who aren't well-versed with restaurant operations can find themselves in trouble quickly.
Sleiman also said 7 to 7 can cater groups ranging in size from five to 500.
"On June 21, we had a big crowd of 80 people," he said, explaining they set up a catered event at the restaurant, which includes 2,300-square-feet of seating space and an equal amount of kitchen space.
Sleiman said his weekend crowds have been encouraging in recent weeks, often with waiting times of 10 to 15 minutes.
Of the 15 employees, which are a mix of part- and full-timers, about four or five are family members, he added.
Reporter Bob Gaetjens can be reached at 330-541-9440, firstname.lastname@example.org or @bobgaetjens_rpc.