As many merchants struggle to remain open during the pandemic, a local Mediterranean restaurant owner has decided to move forward with expanding his county reach by opening a new location in San Carlos.

Mohammed Obeidi, the 34-year-old owner of Falafel Tazah in both Redwood City and Foster City, was determined to develop a new San Carlos location regardless of the pandemic. Having rented space at 1135 Industrial Road last February, Obeidi and his best friends and new business partners Ilya Frangos and Aaron Susman, both ages 37, felt compelled to open the Mediterranean-style restaurant instead of pausing the idea until the pandemic passed.

“I knew that COVID was going to eventually be over and we were going to go back to our normal lives,” said Obeidi. “I knew I would regret it if half way through we pulled out.”

With an open-kitchen concept, Obeidi said the 1,100-square-foot shop will place food preparation “right in your face,” with grab-and-go service. The same model is used at the standing locations which he said has allowed the business to survive the pandemic.

Not having to worry about dining capacity, outdoor seating arrangements and employee management, the trio have been able to focus on developing the new location. Unlike the first two shops, which only took about four months to set up, the San Carlos storefront will have taken nearly a year to establish.

Delays largely stemmed from the virus forcing residents, including many city employees, to work from home, stalling paperwork and in-person inspections. Thankfully, Obeidi said, the site landlord provided the business additional extensions that would allow for construction to be completed.

Obeidi’s love for food flourished from a young age while his father owned and operated a sit-down restaurant with a similar Mediterranean concept in Redwood City. While that location sold years ago, Obeidi, with support from his mother and siblings, developed a new menu from some of his favorite family recipes and opened the first Falafel Tazah in Redwood Shores in 2013. Having experienced success at the first location, four years later the Foster City shop was established.

It was while visiting these locations that Frangos, a longtime classmate, friend and basketball competitor, fell in love with the food, including the shawarma dishes, roasted meat on a rotating split, kebabs and various traditional Mediterranean side dishes. Coming from a Greek background, Frangos connected to the similarities between his and Obeidi’s Middle Eastern culture, noting that in both cultures, “taza” or “tazah” means fresh.

“Parts of their culture and Greek culture are so similar,” said Frangos. “Sharing good meals is traditional in Greek heritage as well as in Mo’s Middle Eastern heritage.”

Eventually, Obeidi approached Frangos and Susman, a Redwood City police officer he met eight years ago as a Falafel Tazah regular, with the idea of opening a location together. With a love for the food and understanding the success of the other two locations, Frangos and Susman agreed.

“We believed in each other and the foundation that Mo’s family has created with the business and the quality that it stood for,” said Frangos.

Recognizing the strain COVID-19 has placed on communities, the co-owners feel confident the business will succeed, noting that they frequently receive words of encouragement from customers. And while Obeidi said he has hopes of expanding further out into the Bay Area, focus in the meantime will be on ensuring the San Carlos storefront thrives under a new partnership once opened Feb. 1.

“I saw an opportunity to open up. ... I was very excited and had to jump,” said Obeidi. “I wanted to do this very badly with two of my closest friends.”

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