TRAVERSE CITY — Tanjina Noushin said she decided to open a restaurant during a pandemic because she has “always been a challenge-taker.”
Noushin, her husband Golam Rabbani and children moved to the United States from Bangladesh several years ago.
Rabbani owns Taste of India, which opened in January at the Grand Traverse Mall Food Court. Noushin assisted her husband there for about a year.
Inspired by this work and her kids’ love for her cooking, Noushin opened Food Arabia about a week ago.
Noushin said her ancestors are from the Middle East, but the main reason for opening this type of restaurant in northern Michigan is to emphasize women entrepreneurs.
“We want people to think that they’re not a burden in this country,” she said of these migrant women. “Women are doing well, but most of them are suppressed by men. There is no economic independence.”
Many women left Bangladesh because of violence and the political situation.
Noushin said she became friends with Roksana Yesmin and Sabina Yesmin, who sought work in Michigan.
Noushin suggested a collaboration, and the trio operates Food Arabia.
Roksana met Noushin through her husband, who works with Noushin’s husband.
She said they create “100-percent handmade” food.
“The food is really good,” she said. “It’s not too spicy. it’s all fresh food; we’re cooking every day.”
Yesmin said she likes to interact with customers when she is not occupied in the kitchen.
The menu is small, but Noushin said they hope to add more items in the next month or so, including hummus. Currently, they serve Middle Eastern staples: bread and a white sauce.
“Gryo is really popular in the United States, so we offer a rice bowl,” Noushin said. “We have lamb and chicken both on our menu. The white sauce is a combination of yogurt, different kinds of herbs, garlic. It’s a yummy sauce. We put that sauce on everything.”
They also make shawarma. Noushin said this is a wrap filled with meat and lettuce.
Food Arabia, she said, aims to provide a new option for northern Michigan diners while giving them food “from mother’s kitchen.”
“Traverse City is a foodie town, but most of the restaurants here have Chinese or Mexican foods,” she said. “We opened Food Arabia to introduce diversity and to introduce Middle Eastern food in this town.”
So far, Noushin said, restaurant patrons have reacted positively to the food. She is happy and hopes this response continues.
Food Arabia is open for pickup from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sundays at the Grand Traverse Mall.
Call 929-346-2210 to order.