Foodie family opens a Lebanese eatery, Skaf’s on York

Skaf's On York, a newly opened neighborhood Lebanese eatery, on York Boulevard in Los Angeles, CA. March 24, 2023. Renee Ye/The Occidental

Noura Skaf said that food has always been at the center of her family. She opened the Skaf family’s first restaurant in 1999, Skaf’s Grill in North Hollywood, alongside her husband, Salim Skaf, and her sister Marleane Skaf.

“The food passion that we have as a family is really the key to success, because we all, all of my family, are foodies,” Noura Skaf said. “It all goes back to my mom. Bless her soul — she’s the one who was a great cook, and we all learned from her.”

The family opened a second location in 2007, Skaf’s Lebanese Cuisine in Glendale, which made the LA Times’ 2022 list of the 101 best restaurants in LA. March 4, they opened Skaf’s On York, their third family-run Lebanese eatery, on York Boulevard, next to Oxy Arts. Noura Skaf and Salim Skaf’s sons, Chris Skaf and Daniel Skaf, co-own the restaurant.

Chicken shawarma on the grill at Skaf’s On York on York Boulevard in Los Angeles, CA. March 24, 2023. Renee Ye/The Occidental

While the York location is currently only open for takeout, Chris Skaf said they plan to expand hours and open indoor seating areas within the next month. Chris said that the menu for their new restaurant is slightly different from their other locations. The menu features a variety of kebabs, including tenderloin and lamb options, as well as beef and chicken shawarma wraps and plates. Vegan options include baba ghannouj, tabbouli salad and muhammara.

Fattoush salad topped with chicken shawarma served at Skaf’s On York on York Boulevard in Los Angeles, CA. March 24, 2023. Renee Ye/The Occidental

“Our food is really geared towards sharing,” Chris Skaf said. “What separates Lebanese food … is the hummus, the tabbouli, a lot of dips, finger foods. That’s where most people who want to judge a Lebanese restaurant judge it.”

Chris Skaf said the menu allows for customers to be able to get a little bit of everything.

“You’ll get some hummus, some salad, maybe some garlic potatoes,” Chris Skaf said. “I think it’s the perfect blend of food.”

Noura Skaf credits her sister, Marleane Skaf, as the source of their recipes. Their teamwork across different aspects of the restaurant business helps them succeed.

“As a 10-year-old [Marlene] loved [and] enjoyed cooking. She used to wait for my mom to leave the house to experiment with food — most people are either great at cooking or baking; she’s great at both,” Noura Skaf said. “She had the experience, and we had the management skills behind it.”

Noura Skaf said that her children jumped into the family business at a young age.

“They were still in high school when we opened up, and they all got involved. They all helped out, and that’s how they learned the business,” Noura Skaf said. “They were amazing.”

Chris Skaf said that ever since he and his brothers were little kids, food has been involved at every family gathering.

“Even falafel — it would be an event. It wasn’t something we just ate normally. It was like, ‘Oh, we’re going to bring everybody over, all the cousins, all the aunts, all the uncles, and we’re going to make falafel at the house, and everyone’s going to eat a wrap,’” Chris Skaf said. “Sometimes I get tired of it, like it’s Thanksgiving or Christmas and then there’s more Lebanese food, but I can’t say no.”

Chris Skaf said his parents came to the United States in the late 1970s, leaving Lebanon due to the Civil War. Noura Skaf said that her sister Marleane Skaf, who was a teacher in Lebanon, joined them in the United States in 1989. She said that the family is originally from Zahlé, in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley.

According to the manager of art education and community programs at Oxy Arts, Frankie Fleming, Occidental owns the property that Skaf’s on York and the next-door Bagel & Slice occupy. She imagines both the restaurants and Oxy Arts’ gallery space as a bridge between Occidental and the greater Highland Park community.

“From the beginning we were very excited to work with them and have them be a part of our block,” Fleming said. “There’s been some waiting and build up, so it feels really great that they’re able to open and really become part of the community in Highland Park.”

Erik Russell, the assistant vice president for hospitality and auxiliary services at Occidental, said students receive a 10 percent discount for showing their ID cards at the restaurant.

Working with your family everyday can be a challenge, but it’s a blessing, Noura Skaf said.

“We’re fortunate as a family that we’re able to do that,” Noura Skaf said. “It takes a team effort.”

Skaf’s on York is open Tuesday — Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., at 4753 York Blvd.

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