Maral Sabounjian always wanted to open a restaurant.
“I’ve always liked food and I’ve always had a passion for it,” she said.
Sabounjian originally opened Man’oushée Cafe in Canyon Country as a traditional Lebanese bakery.
After getting out of real estate in 2008 when the economy took a downward turn, Sabounjian said she “wanted to do something I liked.”
Eight years later
Now eight years and three months later, that traditional bakery has evolved into a menu of nearly 60 items, and a vibrant mix of traditional Lebanese dishes and flavors, and California staples.
Sabounjian’s daughter, Sosse, said that, like her mother, she grew up around food.
“All of our family gatherings revolved around food,” she said.
The restaurant, too, revolves around family.
Family’s labor of love
Family photos hang on the walls, and Sabounjian said the restaurant is a kind of homage to her father, who’d always wanted to open a restaurant.
Now Maral Sabounjian and her two daughters, Natasha and Sosse, work on the weekends in the restaurant and help out with social media. Her son, Sebu, helps out with the technology side of things.
But, the family’s real dedication to their craft shines in the food at Man’oushée Cafe — which means “a small flatbread with toppings,” similar to a pizza.
“There’s nothing in here that she doesn’t make herself,” Sosse said. From the pita bread to the mint rosewater lemonade that Maral’s father used to make, it’s all homemade to order — and yeah, even the pita bread.
About 60 percent of their menu is vegan or vegetarian friendly, but also includes beef and chicken options.
The variety is a big draw for film crews looking to accommodate both the on-screen and off-screen talent.
Rumor has it that stars Harry Shum Jr., Chord Overstreet and Ken Jeong stopped by on their lunch break when filming “Glee” nearby.
There’s only one fried item on the menu: the falafel.
Maral said she has tried baking it, but “it’s just not the same.”
The hearty and healthy menu also draws local celebrities, like firefighters and law enforcement.
Maral said it started with just one fire fighter, who came to the cafe because of its vegan-friendly menu. Then he brought a few friends.
Now “they bring the whole truck sometimes,” Sosse said.
Man’oushée Cafe’s dishes revolve around lemon, garlic, allspice, cumin, and cardamom.
‘The Whole Shebang,’ named by a customer who tried the dish just after its conception, is a combination of three salads: greek, chickpea, and quinoa, topped with a protein of your choice, and traditional Lebanese picked turnips.
It’s a rainbow of color and flavor, and is a perfect sampler for first-timers.
While the quinoa isn’t quite traditional – it has a California twist influenced by Sosse’s stateside upbringing, along with what sister Natasha calls the “Man’oushée twist.”
One new “twist” they’re incorporating? Gluten-free sweets and pastries.
Every Tuesday, the Sabounjians are trying out a new gluten-free version of their traditional sweets, and seeing what takes off with customers. Listening to their customers is a big part of their business.
“We do respond to what our customers want,” Natasha said.
Some now-permanent menu items like Egyptian fava bean dish have been added to the menu simply because customers kept requesting them.
Current customer favorites include the Whole Shebang, the Lebanese Hash, and Man’oushée Cafe’s rice bowls and chicken wraps.
Customers are also requesting an expansion into beer and wine, which the Sabounjians say is their next step, though navigating the difficult process toward acquiring a liquor license will take time.
But, Maral said, they think about expansion all the time.
Man’oushée Cafe is open seven days per week, and offers catering and delivery to orders placed 24 hours in advance. They are located at 27131 Sierra Highway #100.
For more information visit manoushee.com or call 661-251-6666.