It’s All in the Family

Entirely family owned and operated, the Abdulhai Family (joined by Steven's Girlfriend Marley) poses behind the counter. From L: Sarkis, Wanda, Scott, Marley Myers, Steven, and Fred Abdulhai.

Mathew Burciaga
Executive Managing Editor

When Sarkis Abdulhai and his family first opened Aladdin Café, they didn’t know what to expect.

“I’ve been working since I was 18,” Sarkis said, “and every job I’ve had since was 60 or more hours a week. [With Aladdin,] I saw an opportunity to capitalize and went from there.”

Drawn to Isla Vista by its bustling college atmosphere and seemingly endless opportunities for success, the Abdulhai family used moving to IV as the start of a new chapter in their lives.

Despite owning businesses for most of their life, the three brothers — Sarkis, Steven and Scott — and their parents — Fred and Wanda — welcomed the challenges and opportunities their new restaurant brought. As the newest restaurant in IV, Aladdin was faced with developing a loyal base of customers, some of whom may have never tried nor heard of Middle Eastern food.

This task, combined with the move from Los Angeles, proved difficult at first.

“Until now,” said Scott Abdulhai, the youngest of the three brothers, “I wouldn’t say I’ve adjusted to the life — it’s mainly been work and sleep every day since I’ve gotten here.”

Calling their first couple of months “tough” and “eye-opening”, the family has begun to find success nearly a year after moving out and working full time at the restaurant.

“At a point,” said Sarkis, “the [restaurant] starts working for itself. When you feed so many people and have them compliment good things, they start to refer other people to it — it becomes a domino effect.”

Unlike other restaurants in IV, Aladdin is entirely family owned and operated. Throughout the day, each member of the family takes shifts attending to the various duties. During down time they can be found on their patio basking in the final rays of summer, enjoying the conversation and company they offer each other.

According to Sarkis, working with his family makes work much better.

“When it comes down to it, there’s nobody I could hire that will sit here and work as hard as family will. As stressful as it is to work with them, knowing that they’re the ones working makes it a lot easier.”

While this may be the case, working with family is not without faults.

“Whoever tells you [working with your family] is easy is a liar,” said Scott. “When we have an argument here, it carries on to the house after we get off.”

Despite the caveats, each brother spoke highly of their siblings and their parents. Both Scott and Sarkis attribute their drive and dedication to their upbringing, and the experiences their parents had.

Sarkis called his parent’s story an immigrant success story, touching on his father’s roots and the hardships he faced when he first emigrated.

“To see how he went from that to having accomplished so much here, it opened my eyes… Somebody has no education, no money to work off of, has nothing — but has the drive and the ethic to work and make something of themselves.”

For Sarkis and his family, they hope the next year will be big for Aladdin.

“I want this year to pass to know how good is this place going to be, and where to go from here.”