This June, Isla Vista (I.V.) welcomed another restaurant to its growing food community.
Planted in the middle of I.V.’s busiest street, Pardall, is Hummus Republic, a Middle Eastern-Mediterranean fast-food restaurant that puts a twist on traditional Middle-Eastern cuisines.
Since opening its doors to the public in June in I.V., the restaurant has attracted a growing customer base, hungry for cuisines from the Middle East.
As someone who grew up eating Middle Eastern food in my home through family friends and in traditional Middle-Eastern restaurants, I was curious about this new restaurant and decided to try it for myself.
The restaurant, nestled between two of I.V.’s favorite local food spots, Freebirds and Blenders, sports a clean and modern look. Following steps that lead to the entrance, are outdoor string lights that decorate the front patio area. During weekend nights, typically when the restaurant is the busiest, customers enjoy lounging outside while enjoying their meals. Inside, the restaurant is sleek and effortless, consisting only of a menu displayed on a TV screen, an ornamented wall of words in Arabic and Hebrew, and a series of steps guiding the customer on how to build their own meal.
Much like Subway, Hummus Republic uses an “assembly line” approach to serve its customers. Through a series of steps, customers can make their own pita sandwich, wrap, or bowl. Customers start by choosing their base by selecting options like couscous or kale. Next, customers can choose from a variety of proteins to add to their sandwich, wrap, or bowl, such as chicken, beef, falafel (deep-fried balls made from fava beans or chickpeas), or even mushroom shawarma (shitake mushrooms with shawarma spice). Finally, customers have the option of adding a spread and any additional toppings or dressing they want. In addition to making their own sandwich, wrap, or bowl, customers can also add hummus, sweet potato fries, or dolmades to enjoy as a side to their meal.
The new hotspot in I.V. is adored by many people for its simple and health-conscious food varieties. In fact, most of their food items are vegan, giving “fast-food” a new meaning to its name.
Upon deciding what I should order, I was intrigued by the novelty of some of the food items on their menu. Motivated by my curiosity, I decided to step out of my comfort zone and try something new: a pita sandwich with kale, spinach, garbanzo beans, hummus, and mushroom shawarma with a side of dolmades.
The combination of mushrooms and shawarma seasoning was surprising to me since they are two things I could never have imagined going together. Compared to the rest of the sandwich, however, its unique flavors felt foreign next to the pita bread, chickpeas, and hummus which, for me, were the stars of the show. Nonetheless, I was impressed by the idea to create a vegan-friendly sandwich using ingredients like mushrooms.
What caught my attention most was the neon lights to the left of the entryway with the words, “#eatmyballs” hanging on the wall— of course, referring to their falafels.
In total, my favorite part of this experience was my interaction with the employees. I felt welcomed right away by their warm demeanor and I enjoyed engaging in casual conversation with them while they made my sandwich.
Hummus Republic is a restaurant focused on serving its customers food that tastes good and is good for you. Its non-traditional style is a cool contrast to the food you might find elsewhere and is worth giving a try for those interested in diversifying their food palate.