By MIA BASS
With its house-made Greek dressing, gyros and other signature dishes, Nabeel’s is, without a doubt, a Mediterranean staple. And with the care for customers marked by the name plates on the booths commemorating regulars and its central, walkable location, it is, without a doubt, Homewood. The only point of confusion is that it is owned by not a Mr. Nabeel but by John Krontiras, who bought the restaurant from Nabeel Shunnarah 19 years ago.
This restaurant is a melting pot of Krontiras’ Greek heritage, his wife, Ottavia’s, Italian heritage and a nod to original owner Shunnarah’s Lebanese upbringing. The original menu under Krontiras consisted of only two items: The Camelrider (the original sandwich coined by Shunnarah) and the Greek Salad, using only the finest fresh feta cheese and olives.
An integral part of the Homewood community, Nabeel’s supports functions for local organizations like the Exceptional Foundation, Homewood Police Department and Homewood Senior Center.
Nabeel’s used to be home to three separate shops before Krontiras and his wife bought the place from Shunnarah in 1994. Formerly, the corner housed Nabeel’s (in the space nearest Our Lady of Sorrows), a beauty shop in the middle and a flower shop at the corner of Central Avenue and Oxmoor Road.
Krontiras gradually expanded Nabeel’s through the beauty shop and flower shop to form a complete restaurant and market by 2000.
Now Nabeel’s is made up of three large rooms, plus Nabeel’s market on the corner. Krontiras prides the place on its offerings from around the world, especially the items you can’t find in an ordinary grocery store such as Chinese pine nuts, fresh phylo dough, Turkish pistachio nuts, Greek dried figs and Russian sausages.
Krontiras is proud that Nabeel’s can accommodate different prices and different occasions. He says his price points make it possible for people to eat with him multiple times per week. Sandwiches and salads fall in the $6 to $8 range, and Nabeel’s also offers a steak and lamb chops for just under $20.
Diners can enjoy live music on Friday and Saturday nights or simply grab a quick, casual meal throughout the week. “You can come dressed in flip flops or come in a tuxedo,” Krontiras said.
Krontiras enjoys making his own signature items at the restaurant, such as Nabeel’s Gloria Classic Greek dressing used on salads and for marinating meat. Bottled dressing can be found at Whole Foods, Western Market, V. Richards and Piggly Wiggly. Krontiras also makes his own Pita Crunchies and mint iced tea.
They also offer some favorites from the menu by the pound. These include the classic Taramasalta (a creamy dip made with olive oil and fish roe) and Tzatziki Dip (yogurt, chopped cucumber and mint), along with tabouli, chicken salad and tuna salad.
Krontiras wasn’t always in the restaurant business. He grew up in Greece and made the move to America in 1964. He originally resided in Washington D.C., where he later met and married Ottavia. The two moved to Birmingham in February of 1971 for his job in marketing and information technology.
After working for 25 years, Krontiras was laid off; on the same day, Ottavia visited her favorite Nabeel’s Market. Nabeel told her the place was for sale, and after talking with her husband, they bought the business, which had originally opened in 1971.
Krontiras now runs the restaurant with the help of Ottavia and their son, Anthony. His favorite part about Nabeel’s? “It makes you feel like you aren’t in Birmingham—it’s like you can get away for a night.”
1706 Oxmoor Road
Café Hours: Mon.-Sat., 10:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m.
Market Hours: Mon.-Sat., 8 a.m.-7 p.m.