Hummus Sababa, a new pop-up restaurant hosted by York Food & Drink (formerly Morgan & York), opened on Nov. 6 in Ann Arbor. The vegetarian-friendly restaurant is located at 1928 Packard Street and features a variety of hummus bowl options, including plain, tahini, masabcha, mushroom and garlic.
York owner Elan Ruggill said “Sababa” is a very common Hebrew word, which is why they included it in the restaurant’s name.
“It’s an answer for everything, it’s like chill, cool … it’s a very commonly used word,” Ruggill said. “When people ask how you’re doing — ‘sababa.’ It’s good.”
Hummus Sababa also serves additional Israeli cuisine such as schug (a Yemenite pepper sauce), traditional Israeli salad and Golden Sauce. The restaurant will remain open until Nov. 20 and is open for lunch and dinner from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. every day except for Tuesdays.
Ruggill runs the restaurant with chef Mickey Savaldi, who traveled from Israel for the pop-up. Savaldi said he wanted to bring the idea to Ann Arbor while he had the opportunity.
“I was doing this in Israel under a friend’s restaurant so we wanted to bring the concept here,” Savaldi said.
Ruggill said he thinks the restaurant will be a popular attraction in Ann Arbor due to the food’s simplicity and authenticity.
“We thought it would be a good idea because there’s a large population that is really health conscious and also a large population that has a connection to the Middle East and Israel,” Ruggill said. “There isn’t anything like it here, in the Middle East places that only serve hummus are very common and very popular, and in the U.S. they virtually don’t exist. So we thought with (Mickey’s) expertise, we could try it here and see if people like it and see how it works out, and also have some fun and bring a little bit of the culture from over there to here.”
Ruggill said though hummus is a very popular food in the United States, it is different from what is available at Hummus Sababa.
“Hummus has become a really popular condiment in the U.S. and it’s available everywhere,” Ruggill said. “There’s dozens of kinds in the supermarket, but fresh hummus — you can’t find it … I think that because of the large Jewish population and Arab population, that those people who are already familiar with it and have been craving fresh hummus like they’ve had back in other countries, they would be attracted to it and come and try it.”
Savaldi said the ingredients available in the United States differ from those in Israel so the process was a bit more complicated.
“We tested a lot of different kinds of chickpeas, a lot of different kinds of tahini, because what’s available here is not what’s available in Israel. We had to find comparable, available ingredients and we had some stuff imported,” Savaldi said.
Ruggill said that York Food & Drink is a good location for the restaurant because it fits the relaxing atmosphere of the pop-up.
“The idea behind York is to be a conglomeration of multiple different types of businesses in a neighborhood setting which is very much what Hummus Sababa represents, is a laidback place where people can come and sit and take their time and eat slowly and sit down and talk to friends around a bowl of hummus,” Ruggill said.
For the first meal on opening day, Hummus Sababa received about 30 orders. Savaldi said it was an unexpected but pleasant surprise.
“We weren’t really ready mentally for that, we were ready in the back with the hummus and stuff but it was exciting to see so many people,” Savaldi said.
York employee Chelsea Koga has eaten at the restaurant and said it is a unique experience in comparison to other Mediterranean cuisine in the area.
“I’ve had a lot of Mediterranean food and Middle Eastern food, so I think in comparison to the other hummus that I’ve had in the area this is like extremely delicious, maybe a little less citrusy than other hummus that I’ve had,” Koga said. “I want them here forever.”
Rackham student Kevin Lieberman said the restaurant is unique compared to other restaurants in Ann Arbor serving Israeli cuisine, which is an important part of his Jewish culture.
“Israeli food has become trendy,” Lieberman said. “While the delicious food truck TruckShuka comes monthly to the Ann Arbor Farmers Market over the summer, I otherwise don’t believe we have any uniquely Israeli restaurants in Ann Arbor. On a personal level, when I eat Israeli food with friends in the Jewish community, we end up sharing stories of the food baked and cooked by our parents, grandparents, and neighbors.
Orr Viznitser, Jewish Agency Israel fellow for Michigan Hillel, said the restaurant reminded her of home.
“For me, it tastes like home,” Viznitser said. “It was really fun … I’m also Jewish, so it just felt like home to me.”