Monday of this week, the greater Cedar Rapids area was treated to the opening of a new ethnic restaurant. Adding to the short list of Indian restaurants already established, Habiba opened its’ doors for the first time this week for a soft opening serving Pakistani and Indian cuisine. Habiba corners a unique demographic by being the only Indian restaurant in town serving authentic halal cuisine, preparing the ingredients according to Islamic law, as well as the only serving Pakistani cuisine in Linn County. Located in the Twixt Town shopping center, the location pulls from nearby businesses with diverse employee base such as Rockwell Collins.
Owner, Haji Hussain, previously owned a middle eastern grocery store when initially moving to Cedar Rapids but this is his first restaurant outside of his native country of Pakistan. Upon moving here 10 years ago, Hussain knew his calling was in the restaurant business. Habiba, meaning “my love” in Arabic, is a nod to one of Haji’s granddaughters. The kitchen is comprised of family members doing what they do best- cooking old family recipes that they have perfected over the decades. Using a traditional clay oven, or “tandoor”, to bake the naan, that is just the start of the traditional meal. Served when first seated, the naan will continue being delivered upon request, as diners help themselves to the variety of dishes that rotate daily.
“Whether we serve one customer or 100- if they leave with a big smile- my day is made”, said Hussain. And to a hundred they are well on their way. While the restaurant only seats 42, the numbers doubled from Monday to Wednesday, and growth looks promising.
The decor is minimal and still in progress, as well as the sound system, but the emphasis was on the menu and providing the community of Marion, Cedar Rapids and Hiawatha with a new dining opportunity as soon as possible.
Until Saturday, January 14th, Habiba will be open for a lunch buffet from 11 a.m.- 3 p.m. The “soft launch” will continue but extend the hours to an 11 a.m.- 9 p.m. all day buffet for the following two weeks. Regardless of the hours, the buffet will remain $7.99 for all-you-can-eat.
After the grand opening, at the end of January, the restaurant will set a more permanent menu of made-to-order selections. For now, guests can find the specials for the day posted on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/HabibaCuisine.