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Posted on Thu, Jan 28, 2010 : 5:57 a.m.

New Sheesh Mediterranean restaurant opens in Ann Arbor, bringing La Shish menu with it

By Janet Miller


Mike Ibrahim, left, and Abe Tarhini inside their new restaurant, Sheesh Mediterranean Cuisine, in downtown Ann Arbor.

Janet Miller | Contributor

Mike Ibrahim and Abe Tarhini are picking up where La Shish left off. The two former long-time employees of the popular Dearborn-based chain of Middle Eastern restaurants plan to open Sheesh Mediterranean Cuisine in downtown Ann Arbor Thursday.

They are using the same menu and recipes from La Shish, and are hoping to capitalize on La Shish’s popularity but distance themselves from the legal troubles that eventually shuttered the chain.

It will be the third Sheesh restaurant in a growing chain and will have seating for 70 in its 2,400 square feet of space. The success of the first Sheesh, opened in Livonia in 2008, paved the way for a second location in Clawson, Ibrahim said. And the success of the first two provided the financial resources needed to open the Ann Arbor restaurant, located in the space formerly occupied by short-lived Pita Bite at 207 N. Main.

After working at La Shish for 18 years, eventually as a manager, Ibrahim said he was shocked when the chain closed and angry at its owners. He spent seven months unemployed, losing his investment house and wondering about his future.

The idea of opening a restaurant of his own had never occurred to him. “I thought I was going to stay with La Shish. It was a very successful concept,” Ibrahim said. “Before it closed, I never had the courage. After 18 years, I had to start all over again, but it gave me the courage. Some good has come out of it. I am now my own boss.”

Ibrahim took his life savings and turned to friends and family (his parents in Lebanon sold a piece of property to help underwrite the venture) for financial backing to open the Livonia restaurant.

“Ann Arbor is a good market,” Ibrahim said. He and Tarhini bought Pita Bite from owner Fayz Ista and took over his five-year lease. They have upgraded the interior, adding plush tapestries, artwork, custom-made booths and a brick oven that will be used to bake their signature bread. “We are classing the place up, making it more elegant,” Ibrahim said. Ista, who opened Pita Bite in June, said he wanted to move back to Chicago.

Ibrahim said he expects to hire 15 to 20 people, adding to the 40 employees Sheesh has already.

Ibrahim and Tarhini opened the Livonia restaurant as partners and took on a third partner, another displaced La Shish worker, to open the Clawson restaurant. In the future, Ibrahim said, they hope to partner with other former La Shish employees to open more locations. “Ann Arbor will tell me what to do next,”” Ibrahim said.

Ibrahim said the closing of the La Shish restaurants left a void, and old customers have returned. They understand, he said, that he and Tarhini were not part of the legal issues that destroyed La Shish. The La Shish chain, with 12 restaurants around metropolitan Detroit, folded in spring 2008 after owner Talal Chahine and his wife, Elfat El Aouar, were indicted on federal tax evasion charges.

Sheesh will have competition: Palm Palace opened up at the site of the former Pittsfield Township La Shish, later called Charlie’s La Shish, when owner Charlie Bazzi tried to distance himself from the legal problems that embroiled the La Shish chain. Palm Palace, at Carpenter Road and Washtenaw Avenue at the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti border, was also opened by former La Shish employees and offers a similar menu.

There are other Mediterranean restaurants in Ann Arbor, as well as an example of a recently failed one. Yoshi’s, also located downtown and with a Middle Eastern menu, closed its doors at the end of 2009.

“I have the challenge to be No. 1 in Ann Arbor,” Ibrahim said. “I’m taking the challenge.”

Sheesh Mediterranean Cuisine
207 N. Main St., Ann Arbor
Phone: (734) 585-5196
Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Monday through Sunday
Menu: Hummus, kibbee, falafel and more. Top seller: chicken sheesh tawook ($13.99) and lamb chops ($20.99). Prices range from $3.50 for a falafel sandwich up.

For more information on Sheesh Mediterranean Cuisine, visit's restaurant guide.


Cindy Scott

Thu, Jun 21, 2012 : 9:21 p.m.

I live in Victoria B.C. Canada. I spent many months over the years in Michigan. One of my favourite restaurants was La Sheesh.. I havent been back since my friend passed away in 2007. I'm happy to hear you have opened your restaurant in my favourite U.S.A. city Ann Arbor.. home to my other favourite restaurant Shalimars.. I wish you every success in your new restaurant.. The food is wonderful.. I went online to look for a recipe for taboubli and read about your restaurant opening.. Good luck.. Cindy Scott, Victoria B.C


Fri, Jan 29, 2010 : 10:12 a.m.

There can never be too many Mediterranean restaurants. I look forward to trying this one out; I hope the classier setting doesn't rule out carry-out, one of Pita Bite's strengths (along with home delivery).


Thu, Jan 28, 2010 : 6 p.m.

Yummm! I miss the old LaShish and am very happy about this new opening. I wish they had found a location with more parking (Somewhere along W. Stadium would be nice). I know, I know... people want things they can walk to. But, I am in a wheelchair, so I'll need a place to park. I'll figure it out; the food is too good to miss.


Thu, Jan 28, 2010 : 4:44 p.m.

My stomach is prejudiced to their lamb chops. Scrumptious! Great service too! Thanks guys for making my dining experience an enjoyable one!


Thu, Jan 28, 2010 : 1:47 p.m.

This restaurant has a good chance to succeed, in part, because it now has a very vaible dinner menu (where it will eventually get most of its profits from) and some unique characteristics (such as the baking oven for its bread). The location issue is an intereting one. At one time, only the Heidelburg and Broken Egg had any real support on this block of Main Street. While not to confuse this block with the 300 S. Main block, this block seems to now be more acceptable to potential restaurant customers. I know I will support this restaurant and I feel others will also. While this is only my opinion, I do have some experience and knowledge of the Ann Arbor restaurant market so it is not entirely uninformed.


Thu, Jan 28, 2010 : 12:55 p.m.

The food might be the last 3 restaurants that failed in that space also had decent food...but it's no matter...that spot is no good. They might make it to the end of summer, if they have a little in their bank account that is. That the underground spot in Kerrytown that was the Metro last, and the corner of Liberty and 5th (where the A2dotcom offices are now), where coffeeshops failed like one of the truly cursed in Ann Arbor.