Said Namari owns several Subway and Domino’s franchises in the Detroit area, but Hommus Express is his first Middle Eastern restaurant. Namari, who’s Palestinian, bought the former La Pita Fresh from Kasey Chammout in May. Chammout, who’d been in business for a little over a year, had let it be known that he was less than thrilled with the foot traffic on that block of East Liberty since Borders closed last fall.

Namari has his own ideas about what was wrong. “The lights were dim–I lit it up.” Then he fixed the ventilation problems that had allowed kitchen smoke to seep into the dining room. His years on the Wayne State campus also taught him that college kids–or really, everyone–appreciate snappy service. “Our target is three minutes, max five minutes. It’s statistically proven that after the second minute, the customer starts getting itchy.”

“I’m using one hundred percent natural oils, no hydrogenated. The olive oil is cold pressed, no sugar sweeteners for the smoothies–we use agave nectar, honey–and we use organic milk. We try to get away from anything synthetic. I’m proud of our hommus–actually I’m proud of everything, and the falafel is top notch.” Even so, he’s been surprised by how much Ann Arbor likes its vegetarian food and how much falafel he’s selling. “One day I came in and looked at the register and said, ‘Are they ringing up everything as falafel?'” It turned out that Mo truly was selling a lot of falafel. (Mo, usually on duty at the counter, is also a juice doctor. He creates phenomenal juice mixes to match your mood. When I was coming down with a cold, he mixed up a concoction of beets, carrots, cayenne, and ginger.)

Namari himself makes the savory pastries, a skill he learned while “trying to feed myself when I was a single.” He doesn’t make his own baklava or sweet pastries–those come from Detroit, and there’s a large selection of them.

Namari already has another Hommus Express in the making in Southfield.

Hommus Express, 529 E. Liberty, 997-7482. Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-11 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-10 p.m. (no website)