Beity, a new Mediterranean restaurant on High Street, offers a taste of home to all.
Peel back the layers of red, white, and blue, and you’ll find the same essential vein running through every story about pursuing the American dream. It begins in uncertainty. And ends in a homecoming. Five years ago Mohamed Mando, his wife, Bana, and their daughter, Racil, fled civil war in Syria. Behind them they left their lives and livelihood, a family business—a soda factory and small restaurant—in ruins. Before them was the United States, a land built on the strength and determination of immigrants from every country and all walks of life.
They lost their home in Syria, but they hadn’t lost their hope. Finding their way to Morgantown, and with the help of family members like cousin Kareem Mando and Bana’s mother living in Michigan, the family quickly regained its footing. Bana says that was partly because of the people. “I like Morgantown. I like the people here,” she says, describing the warm welcome she received. “That is why we stayed and decided to open a business here. That is why my daughter now goes to college at WVU. And it is why I hope we can stay.”
Their first restaurant—Jasmine Grill—which they co-owned, was a big success. Morgantown and WVU were seeing a surge in visitors, students, and immigrants from the Middle East and Mediterranean nations. And with them came a rise in interest about the culture, foods, and peoples of those nations. Mohamed attributes that open-minded enthusiasm to the university culture. “The university is attracting a lot of international students and interest in international cuisine,” Mohamed says through Kareem, as he is still learning English. “The population here is quite small compared to most cities, but that makes it easier to spread the word.”
Word did spread, and with the popularity of Jasmine Grill, the Mandos decided to branch out and open their own restaurant. So, in the winter of 2016, they started Beity on High Street, adding yet another dimension to the international flavors and cuisines popping up across Morgantown, from the authenticity of The Greeks on Beechurst to Morgantown staple Ali Baba.
Formerly Tortonis, the space Beity occupies is understated with its crisp blue awning. A caricatured Italian chef still smiles from the glass front doors, but inside, the smells and sounds paint a new picture. Grilled meats, savory spices, garlic, and fresh pita bread, topped with laughter and a rainbow of languages—if you weren’t hungry when you opened the door, you certainly are by the time you’ve made it to the counter.
The menu offers simple explanations of classic dishes—from the falafel, fried and spiced patties made with chickpeas and parsley served with tahini sauce, to the kebabs, skewers of ground, savory meats like lamb served with rice or fresh-cut fries. The shish tawook, one of the most popular dishes, is deceptively simple, yet mouth-wateringly satisfying, with chunks of grilled, seasoned meat atop a bed of fluffy rice or crispy fries served with salad. You’ll find a few American comfort foods as well, like crispy fried chicken wings served with fries and garlic sauce, cheese pizza, and decadent chocolate cake.
Arabic Studies Club president and WVU student George Jacobs says the flavors of Beity’s dishes remind him of his childhood. “My grandpa was Lebanese, and his wife learned to make food like these grape leaves—from the original recipes. This tastes very similar.” Lillie Jacobs and other members of the club who’ve gathered at Beity for a private party agree that the food is “amazing”— even if they’re still learning what to call it or how to describe it.
Bana says it’s all about her ingredients, which are always fresh, never frozen, and often purchased from the local farmers’ market or brought in from nearby urban centers. Ask the Mandos anything about the quality or history of their dishes and they will explain their importance, not just to their pride but to their culture, one they are happy and grateful to share.
In the future they hope to expand their catering business to the university and into the Morgantown community and maybe even open a restaurant in Ohio someday. Mohamed, speaking through Kareem, says the reception to their new venture has been incredible, so they have high hopes. “There are a lot of people from our region here, yes. But many people also just want try something new. The market here is always looking for a new experience. And the taste is good. All the people who try it are coming again,” he says. “And 50 percent of our customers are coming here every day.”
They go for the authentic flavor of fresh, organic ingredients, 100 percent halal meats prepared according to Muslim tenets, and a variety of vegetarian options, from stuffed grape leaves to Bana’s famous hummus, one of Beity’s most popular sides. Visit the Mandos’ family business on any given day and you might run into a few students eating a late lunch and chatting in Arabic, a group of university professors discussing English literature, a young mother and her children coloring— all hailing from different nations and cultures, all enjoying great food.
“That’s what we offer, that’s what this restaurant stands for,” Kareem says. “Beity means ‘my home.’ We want others to feel this is their home, too.”
Beity, 376 High Street, 304-212-5687
Dishes It Out
A TASTE OF HOME HUMMUS
1 cup chickpeas, soaked and cooked
3-4 tablespoons tahini sauce
1 clove garlic, chopped
Lemon juice to taste
1 cup water
Extra virgin olive oil to taste
1. In a blender, mix chickpeas, tahini, garlic, and lemon with small amounts of water until smooth or to desired consistency.
2. Drizzle in olive oil and taste. Adjust amounts to your liking.
3. Add seasonings like salt, pepper, cumin, or paprika according to your preferences.
4. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil on top and fresh pita bread.
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