Sultan’s Mediterranean Cuisine & Bakery owner Bassam Mahmoud says he is the grandfather of Mediterranean food in Greater Lansing, having helped many fellow local restaurateurs get their start in the industry at Sultan’s. Though his restaurant’s main location has moved from Hannah Plaza to downtown East Lansing, he’s still serving the classic dishes that have made his restaurant a mainstay. Right now, you can enjoy Sultan’s by dining-in and ordering takeout or delivery.
Mahmoud said the switch came about because rent at the original Hannah Plaza location, where Sultan’s first opened in 1995, was becoming unjustifiably expensive. He found a much better price at the new spot on Grand River Avenue and made the move. An additional perk, Mahmoud said, is the extra foot traffic Sultan’s can attract from the students living off campus in East Lansing.
“When COVID-19 started, by law I could only do catering and carryout. That was not enough to cover my expenses, so that got me thinking about downsizing,” Mahmoud said. “I have gotten a few new customers, and they left good reviews and will probably be coming back.”
Though Sultan’s is open for dine-in, Mahmoud said customers in East Lansing still seem a little shy about returning to the restaurant for a sit-down meal. “Ninety-five percent of my business is carryout and delivery through Uber, DoorDash and GrubHub,” he said. “My old customers that have known me for a long time, they keeping coming to support me.”
At the new Sultan’s location in East Lansing, diners can still expect to enjoy the same famous dishes that made Sultan’s become a Greater Lansing mainstay. Mahmoud said a popular dish that is ordered again and again, is Sultan’s signature chicken shawarma. Mahmoud said his favorite dish is the deboned, charbroiled chicken. “I like dark meat, so when I need to eat here, I eat the deboned chicken,” Mahmoud said. “I eat it as a combo with hummus, salad and rice.”
Mahmoud swears by his freshly prepared, in-house ingredients. Nothing is frozen and nothing, besides tomato paste, comes from a can. Sultan’s shish kafta is prepared with a blend of meats that Mahmoud makes himself using cuts of lamb and beef. “I don’t trust the ground beef from outside,” Mahmoud said. “I’m very sensitive about serving pork or ham. I saw a report by ABC that discovered that packages of meat that claimed to be 100 percent beef would still have five percent pork.”
Though Mahmoud has a pharmaceutical degree, he is continuing his family’s line of work by being a restaurateur. “My passion is in restaurants. My father used to own restaurants back home in Syria, I used to study and work with him all my life, until I came to this country,” Mahmoud said. “Being in the restaurant business has been a part of my life since I was a kid. I am the one who’s opened the doors of my restaurant for the past 25 years. I do my job out of love. ”
Monday-Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
1381 E. Grand River Ave., East Lansing
(517) 333-4444, sultansmediterranean.com
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