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Pella Café:
Inspired by the Flavors
of the Mediterranean

Story by Audrey Hanes, Photography by Brittney Guest Osborn

With the opening of Pella Café, a Greek and Mediterranean restaurant that makes every item on the menu from scratch, Ibrahim Al Elamat and his family have been able to bring a new dining option to Jonesboro.

Although Ibrahim’s background is in journalism and communications, creating in the kitchen has always been a passion. He opened his first restaurant in 2013 in Jordan while he was attending a university to earn his degree in journalism. He owned and operated it for five years until he let his partner take over and moved overseas to Indianapolis, where he continued to work in the restaurant industry.

Last year, Ibrahim and his family moved to Jonesboro so that he could attend Arkansas State University and finish his master’s degree in communications. When his parents came to visit, they tried to find food similar to what they were used to eating, and when they couldn’t find a good option, they encouraged Ibrahim to again open his own restaurant.

Pella Café opened on Dec. 1, 2020, and so far, the community has supported the eatery and celebrated its authentic cuisine.

“The good thing about this food is that you can taste when it’s fresh or not,” said Ibrahim. “Everything needs to be fresh to taste the real food. We make everything fresh every day, and I’d welcome anyone to come visit my kitchen. You can tell from the vegetables and salad we use. We spend a bit more than some restaurants, because we want the quality. We need quality to get the real ethnic taste, especially with the meat. With COVID, it’s hard for us to find the meat we use, so you have to pay more, but it’s worth it.”

When it comes to authenticity and attention to detail, Ibrahim and his family go the extra mile; they have Pella Café’s olive oil shipped from Jordan because they say it results in the flavor they want for their food.

So far, the most popular appetizer is the Pella Sampler, a combination of baba ghanoush, which is smoked eggplant puree with garlic, fresh lemon juice and tahini, along with hummus, four falafels of ground chickpeas with parsley, onion and cilantro, served with two pita breads and two grape leaves.

Ibrahim says that while Pella Café’s Chicken Kabobs, made of chicken breasts marinated in their special spice blend and cooked over a charcoal grill, are very popular, he encourages customers to branch out and try things on the menu that may not be as familiar to them.

“Some people are afraid to order the Iskender, a Turkish dish of thinly sliced lamb and beef in a tomato sauce with pita bread and yogurt, but everyone who tries it loves it and comes back to order it again,” said Ibrahim.

The other entrée options are Chicken Shawarma, Gyro and Lamb Chops, along with Lamb, Kofta or Mixed Kabobs. The menu offers a variety of sandwiches, as well, including Chicken Shawarma, Gyro, Lamb Shish Kabob, Chicken Kabob, Kofta Kabob and Falafel. Greek, Fatoosh and Tabooleh salads are also available.

The Baklava, a flakey pastry filled with chopped pistachios and soaked in honey, is made homemade every day. Although time-consuming to make, Ibrahim says that they make it fresh so frequently because it negatively affects the taste to freeze it and serve it later.

“I like food, I like the kitchen, I like cooking,” said Ibrahim. “Even after I close up here, I go home and cook for my family. I love it. I like to always know new food and recipes.”

That love of food runs deep in the Al Elamat family. Many of Ibrahim’s family members are involved in all aspects of the restaurant; his sister handles the social media and branding, his dad arrives before 8 a.m. each day to start cooking, and his mom, cousin and brother all contribute, as well.

“We started from the bottom up and put our touch on everything in the restaurant – the decorations, the menu, everything,” said Ibrahim.

The Al Elamats worked to make one side of the restaurant look more like an authentic Mediterranean eatery, while the other side functions more as a coffee bar. They allow students to come and use the WiFi for free, and many order the popular Turkish Coffee, a strong, frothy coffee, or the hot tea, which is infused with either fresh sage or mint.

“We had this idea to make it available for students who don’t have a place to go to study off campus,” said Ibrahim, who based the idea off his own experiences as an A-State student. “We have a lot of students come in.”

Pella, located at 1903 Grant Ave., Suite F, is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. Delivery is available for a flat $3 fee. For more information, call (870) 938-0111 or find Pella Café on Facebook and Instagram.