Rags to Riches: 8 Egyptian Restaurants that Started Life as Street-Carts
There’s nothing quite like the hearty foods you find around every corner of Cairo’s streets, be it a warm foul sandwich, a messy tubby of koshary, or, if you’re stomach can handle it, a spicy Alexandrian liver sandwich.
Street food has always been a vital part of the Egyptian cuisine and whether you love it or hate it, it certainly provides respite for your pockets, if not your stomach. But like so many Egyptian success stories, many of the city’s native restaurants come from humble beginnings – here are eight restaurants that began life as simple street-carts.
What started out as a simple foul cart in the Sheraton Buildings area has become the most go-to foul and ta’ameya venues in Heliopolis and it’s all down to a guy called, well, Hamada. The success of the restaurant has even lead to the opening Hamada for Fresh Juices and Fruit Salads right next door – who knows what Hamada will open up next?
Featured on CNN as the cheapest and most popular local Egyptian koshary restaurant, Koshary Abou Tarek has existed since the 1950s, but originally as a small koshary cart on Downtown’s Champollion Street. After gaining massive success throughout the years, Koshary Abou Tarek went from a merely colourful cart –still preserved to this date by the Abou Tarek family – to a four-storey restaurant exclusively selling the best koshary in Downtown.
Promising to launch a renovated branch this year, Kebdet El Prince has become one of Imbaba’s landmarks and a popular Egyptian restaurant known for its delicious liver dishes. The restaurant went from a kebda cart standing in the busy Imbaba district, to a huge restaurant with an equally huge waiting-list – yeah, a waiting list.
Kababgy El Refaay
Historically a hotspot for Egyptian celebrities – everyone from actors to football players have been spotted there over the years – Kababgy El Refaay went from being a cart selling grilled meats just around the corner of El Sayeda Zeinab area to one of the most visited local restaurants specialising in kebab and kofta.
A nickname which started off as a joke between Abdo, the venue’s owner, and his friend, Abdo Tlawoth ironically became a brand name for what was once a kebda and sojok cart in Nasr City. Abdo Tlawoth—literal for pollution— is now one of the most popular takeaway and car-serving restaurants offering sandwiches, meat and chicken meals and desserts.
Started in 1996 as a small food cart – most famous for its oriental egg burgers in Triumph square in Heliopolis, Amo Hosny has since spread its wings with several branches in Heliopolis area offering shawerma, kebda, sojouk and many more tasty street delicacies.
Another landmark in El Sayed Zeinab, El Gahsh is a famous foul and ta’ameya restaurat which once was a small foul cart with hundreds waiting in line. Serving foul in a seemingly endless list of variations, in addition to falafel, fries and pickled eggplant sandwiches, diners come from all across the city to the 24/7 restaurant.
From a small cart – which used to a sandwich for five piasters back in the days— to an entire floor located in El Gamaleyah area, Zezo serves classics, like sojok and kebda sandwiches. Perhaps Zezo’s finest hour came when the restaurant was name-checked by legendary actor, Adel Imam, when he reffered to it as Zezo Natana – literal for garbage.