Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Being in the Center of the Naf Naf Triangle

Long-time readers of my posts on entreVIEW (all 4 of you…) may recall that I discovered the entrepreneurial spirit of Israel on a trip there about 18 months ago. However, they may not know (or care) that I’ve been pretty obsessed with Mediterranean food ever since that trip.* 

That’s why I was so excited when I learned (just after returning from that trip) that a new Mediterranean fast casual restaurant Naf Naf Grill, had opened in downtown Minneapolis in U.S. Bank Plaza about three blocks to the north and east of my office. A second location followed last fall in City Center (one block West) and I just read that another location is opening soon about a block and half east and south of me in the TCF Tower! I guess that essentially puts my office in the middle of the Naf Naf triangle—they’ve got me surrounded.

If you haven’t yet discovered Naf Naf, you should. It is the fresh and delicious 
“Chipotlized” version of Mediterranean food. It’s also a great entrepreneurial success story. Nine years ago, the Founders of Naf Naf, Sahar Sander and Elan Burger, started the first Naf Naf in a small shack in suburban Chicago with no air conditioning. With help from some local business people who loved the product, David Sloan and Justin Halpenny, they started to expand to new locations in Illinois. In 2015 the Company received an infusion of growth capital from Roark Capital and has expanded to dozens of locations in Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

A couple of Naf Naf pointers for novices:
  • I recommend the rice bowl or the cous cous bowl instead of a Pita sandwich, because you get a fresh-baked on site Pita with your bowl anyway and can build your own.
  • If you leave out the pickles (sour and crunchy), you’re making a mistake.
  • Careful with the red sauce, it is actually spicy (not just spicy by Minnesota standards)!
In the meantime, if you’re looking for me over the lunch hour, I’ll be somewhere in the triangle.

* In case you don’t believe me, in addition to adding “Hamshuka” to the regular rotation of things I cook for the family, we haven’t purchased hummus since we returned. Why bother when it is even more delicious and easy to make yourself? I’d be glad to share my recipes for either dish if you send me a note!

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