When Talal Chahine fled to Lebanon in 2005 to avoid charges of federal tax evasion and in 2006 was indicted for allegedly funneling money to terrorists, the La Shish Middle Eastern restaurant chain he’d founded went belly-up. And longtime La Shish restaurant managers Mike Ibrahim and Abe Tarini were left flat-footed, angry, and unemployed. But La Shish had a fiercely loyal following, and they realized they could tap that loyalty by opening a restaurant that used the menu and recipes from La Shish. And so, at the end of January, Ibrahim, thirty-nine, and Tarini, forty-four, opened Sheesh Mediterranean Cuisine, supplanting Pita Bite, on North Main.

They left much of the interior intact, but La Shish-ed it up with plush tapestries, new artwork, and a brick oven they use to bake La Shish’s original-recipe bread. Customers can order individual entrees like kibbe nayee, finely ground raw lamb mixed with cracked wheat and natural herbs and spices and topped with extra virgin olive oil, or combination plates like the mixed maza, which includes hummus, baba ghanoush, tabouli, fattoush, and falafel. Prices start at $3 for soups and appetizers and top out around $20 for entrees.

“We have the same recipes, same concept, same everything,” Ibrahim says. They’ve already proven it’s a winning formula–this is their third location, and Ibrahim says there’ll be more. They eventually hope to bring in all the former La Shish managers as partners, managing their own Sheesh locations. And they’re hiring back all the former La Shish employees they can track down, from waitresses to cooks. Says Ibrahim, “We want to put all these people back to work in the same environment.”

Sheesh Mediterranean Cuisine, 207 N. Main. 585-5196. Sun.-Thurs. 10 a.m.-10 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 10 a.m.-11 p.m. www.sheeshonline.com

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