Old-world Mediterranean cuisine comes to South Jeffco

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By AJ Vicens

Patrons of the new Garbanzo Mediterranean Grill in South Jeffco will find the restaurant offers little room for compromise.

“Compromise is a bad word,” a phrase written in large letters along one of the restaurant's walls, says it all. “Compromising food quality is something we just won’t do.”

Restaurant owner and co-founder Alon Mor (pronounced “alone moore”) says the eatery is all about fresh, healthy food.

“The whole idea is that the food be fresh, healthy and valuable,” Mor said while sitting in one of the restaurant’s booths July 31. Most of the dishes at Garbanzo are based off several staples of Mediterranean fare: the garbanzo bean, falafel, shwarma (marinated beef or chicken), falarma (falafel and shwarma combined), hummus, pita bread, laffa (a different type of bread), tahini and couscous.

“I just want to bring people a new flavor,” Mor said. “They’re new tastes to a lot of people, but they’re healthy.” The breads and relishes are made fresh on-site every day, which Mor says takes more effort but is worth it when it comes to fresh tastes and health.

He said a big part of the restaurant’s concept is for things to be open and for people to be able to watch the food being prepared. It’s a concept called “fast-casual,” which isn’t like a traditional sit-down restaurant but miles away from a fast-food restaurant filled with highly-processed foods. Mor’s proud that his offerings are completely devoid of trans-fats.

“It’s an open kitchen,” Mor said. “We’re not hiding anything.”

Garbanzo also offers catering services with options priced in groups of 10 servings.

Mor said a lot of the dishes are loosely based on dishes his mother and grandmother cooked when he was growing up in Israel. But taking those recipes and making a business around them didn’t happen right away.

Mor came to Colorado eight years ago after earning his master's in business administration from Creighton University in Omaha, Neb. He met his wife in Nebraska, and came down to Colorado and started working with the Panera Bread eateries. During his time with Panera, he became close with the founder of Panera Bread, and the two eventually decided to open the Garbanzo Mediterranean Grill chain.

They started with their first location in Greenwood Village in January 2008, and the new South Jeffco store is their fourth. By March 2010 they’ll have added three more, with one near Park Meadows, another in Highlands Ranch and the seventh in Glendale near the intersection of South Colorado Boulevard and East Alemeda Avenue. Mor employs a fair number of people, including the 30 he hired to run the South Jeffco location.

He’s confident that even in a rough economy, the restaurant will ultimately be successful.

“People are excited when we move into their part of town,” he said. “For us, it’s been a great ride.”

Mor said Garbanzo is different than other Mediterranean options around town.

“I think we’re fresher, cleaner,” he said. “People are comfortable when they walk in here with the way the store looks. It’s different than a lot of the stuff that’s out there. It’s not your typical burrito.”

Mor said for him, the business part is great, but being around food and meeting people is even better.

“I can’t sit in an office,” Mor said. “I love the people that work with us, and I love meeting the customers. I meet hundreds of people every week. Besides, I love to eat, so it’s probably a good combination.”

Contact AJ Vicens at aj@evergreenco.com, and check www.columbinecourier.com for updates and breaking news.

Garbanzo Mediterranean Grill is open in the shopping center on the west side of Johnson Lake in Clement Park, 8246 W. Bowles Avenue. Call them at 303-932-8888 or visit online at www.EatGarbanzo.com.