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Food & Drink

‘It’s Like a Renaissance’: Baba’s to Open Hummus House, Bakery, and Market

Hummus, mana’eesh, and more head for the old Galls uniform store this July.

a person in a baby blue baba's sweatshirt holds their garlicky onion hummus to the camera

In 2018, siblings Rana Kamal and Khalid Ansari founded Baba’s to spread the good word about their father Jamal’s hummus, which he made fresh daily at Mediterranean Cruise Cafe in Burnsville. The brand ignited their entrepreneurial spirits, and became a vehicle to show the strong love, loyalty, and dedication they have for Palestine, the land where their father Jamal is from. They wanted to honor his hard work and perseverance.

Baba’s has since grown quite the following, ending up on store shelves around the Midwest from Whole Foods to Hy-Vee to your community co-op. Kamal and Ansari established a popular stand at the Minnesota State Fair that features their hummus bowls, pita puffs, and falafel. Long lines form each summer from the colorful, retro Baba’s food Airstream at the fair, with Minnesotans showing off their Mediterranean treats via Instagram. Its successes inspired a business move that the sibling owners had previously avoided: expanding to a brick-and-mortar operation. 

Rendering of the new Baba's hummus house

“We grew up in the restaurant business, seeing our father work 18 hours a day, 120 hours a week at Mediterranean Cruise Cafe,” Kamal says. “We wanted to stay away from the restaurant industry when we started Baba’s. After the first year at the State Fair, we both said, ‘We have something here.’ It would be a shame if we don’t open up a storefront and see where that goes.”

That’s exactly what they’re doing: The new Baba’s restaurant and hummus production facility that's scheduled to open mid-summer at 2220 Lyndale Avenue S. (the old Galls uniform store). The company had outgrown its basement kitchen beneath Mediterranean Cruise Cafe, so they’ll take advantage of the spacious new digs. “With this new storefront now, it's like a renaissance,” Ansari says.

Baba’s Lowry Hill East address includes a 10,000-square-foot production facility, plus a 2,000-square-foot, 50-seat cafe where they’ll serve those State Fair hummus bowls year-round. The siblings also plan to offer mana’eesh, which will make them the first Southwest Asian/North African/Middle Eastern storefront in the Twin Cities to offer mana’eesh year round. Mana’eesh is a flatbread delicacy seasoned with za’atar, spiced meat (lahmajeen) or za’atar and cheese. Previously, it was tough to track down mana’eesh anywhere but at the two-day Lebanese Festival at St. Maron’s in northeast Minneapolis each September. You can also expect one-off food specials, coffee, tea, lots of hummus varieties, and Arab pantry essentials. 

The brother-sister Baba's duo at their State Fair outpost

Don’t worry: The State Fair outpost isn’t going anywhere. 

“We look at the food truck at the State Fair as our laboratory,” Ansari says,” It has helped us in offering new varieties of hummus to the public, so we don’t plan on leaving.”

As Baba’s grows, Kamal and Ansari say the wisdom of their father still informs all of their entrepreneurial efforts. And not in an abstract sense.   

“Baba has been very involved,” Ansari says. “His input is always, ‘Make every customer happy, and make sure you are there as much as you can be.’” 

Adds Kamal:

“He had a little heart-to-heart with me the other day, and he was like, ‘You guys are the new generation, it’s your turn now,’ He’s really proud, and we are so lucky to have someone who has been an instrumental role model to us, and to watch his journey and know about his and my mom’s journey, and all the sacrifices they made for us, is really amazing.”

Opening July 2023
2220 Lyndale Avenue S., Minneapolis
Monday through Sunday: 10 a.m. - 8 p.m.

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