Review from the The Rapidian 03/07/2014 – click here for article
Since opening the doors to Osta’s in 1993, John and Diane Aouad have grown with the community as a family. The Auoad family has become a Gaslight Village staple by bringing Lebanese cuisine to Grand Rapids.
“The community is wonderful. The people are so nice and loyal. You feel warm here,” says John Aouad, owner and head chef. “I consider us a family. Since we opened, it’s the same. We know customers. One day they’re single, they get married, they have kids, they’re here with their kids, now the kids are in college and coming back to see us. It’s like family.”
“[John Aouad] first emigrated here in 1988 and opened a small deli in the Commerce building downtown and we opened here in 1993,” says Diane Auoad. “At that time, Grand Rapids didn’t know what hummus was.” With the growth and visibility of Middle Eastern food in the area, Diane Aouad says Osta’s still offers the most authentic product.
“We start with the dry bean, fresh garlic, everything is fresh. We import Lebanese tahini,” says Diane Aouad. “And of course my husband says it needs his love.” With the exception of bread and desserts, every dish is made from scratch in house. Diane Aouad says it allows to accommodate allergens and dietary restrictions easily because they know every ingredient to their dishes.
“A lot of the vendors we use have been [the same] since we opened because we know the quality is there,” says Diane Aouad. She says her husband would never serve a dish he would not eat himself.
“I often tell people that when they come in here, the taste will be as if you’d just stepped off a plane in Beirut,” says Diane Aouad. “We’ve had immigrant Lebanese people come in and tell us it reminds them of home.” John Aouad’s passion for an authentic Lebanese food experience is incomparable, she says.
“This man does something to chicken I have not been able to duplicate nor seen it anywhere,” says Diane Aouad. She recommends their chicken tawook to first timers. The grilled chicken pita sandwich is topped with John Aouad’s homemade garlic sauce.
“Consistency and quality have not changed in 20 years,” says Diane Aouad. “We could do a lot of things to save money, cut corners, especially with the way the economy is now.” She says she most respects her husband for his dedication to a consistent product despite fluctuation in the local economy.
“We have a wonderful client base and though they don’t come as often, they’re still coming after 20 years,” says Diane Auoad. “When you come here, it’s like coming into our home. We have made so many amazing friendships through this place.”