With its owner’s prediction that it will become a “famous” Isla Vista eatery, Jerusalem Garden Cafe opened Saturday, offering a variety of Middle Eastern and Malaysian foods – and eventually some hookah.
Located at 910 Embarcadero Del Norte, the new restaurant replaces the Blue Dolphin Cafe. Owner Michael Hassan, who also owns the I.V. Deli Mart and a new line of hookah tobacco, said the restaurant will give patrons more diverse choices for dining in I.V.
“We have more options that just burritos, and we also have burgers and our famous breakfast,” Hassan said. “Well, it’s going to be famous.”
Hassan plans to bring a hookah bar into the cafe within a few weeks. He said he will set up the bar a few days a week, and will charge customers $5 to smoke. In addition, he said he hopes the restaurant will incorporate a fresh juice bar within the next few months.
Sam’s To Go owner Mehrdad Homayouni said he does not expect the new restaurant will pull too much business away from his hookah bar – currently the only one in I.V. Sam’s To Go charges customer’s $12 to smoke, and $7 for a refill. Homayouni said the bar is a small part of his business, and he is not worried about competition.
“We’re just doing it for fun, so people can come out and hookah-hookah,” he said.
Jerusalem Garden Cafe is open from 6:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. on weekdays, and until 3 a.m. on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. Hassan said he hopes these hours, combined with a diverse menu and cheap prices, will make Jerusalem Garden Cafe a hot spot in Isla Vista.
“I have big expectations,” Hassan said. “It’s going to be famous.”
All meals are under $6, Hassan said, and can either be eaten in the cafe or taken to go. Once a meal is ready, the restaurant’s cooks, and not a waiter, bring the food to the customer. Hassan said he has not hired waiters so patrons do not have to pay a tip.
“With tips, a five dollar meal can become a six or seven dollar meal, and students don’t want to pay that,” Hassan said.
Hassan said he hired some of the Blue Dolphin’s cooks, as well as a few new cooks, many of whom are students.
Jerusalem Garden Cafe will serve Malaysian foods and some dishes from the old Blue Dolphin menu on certain days, which have yet to be determined. This way, Hassan said, students will know what is being served on what day and will be able to “build up a craving.”
The Jerusalem Garden Cafe does not currently serve kosher foods, Hassan said. However, he said he is looking for a place to open a kosher restaurant in I.V. or in downtown Santa Barbara, as he feels there is a demand for it.