From cooking for friends one night in 2014, to developing into a concept restaurant two years later, Joe Mama’s is home to fresh, homemade, and delicious burgers and light bites. The brainchild of Ahmed Fakhro and his wife Samah, Joe Mama’s wholesome food options and inviting ambiance has made it a crowd favourite since its opening in September 2016 in El Mercado Mall, located in Janabiya. Ahmed spoke to Perle Magazine about the beginnings of Joe Mama’s and how it has evolved since its inception, and more importantly, why the burger place is more than just a restaurant.
Crediting his mother for everything that he knows about good food and quality cooking, and developing a taste for different cuisines from a young age, it is no surprise Ahmed’s culinary skills and gastronomic knowledge combined with his wife’s has resulted in the form of Joe Mama’s. The concept of Joe Mama’s, however, initially started with Ahmed and three of his partners (who later moved onto other ventures) as a pop-up food cart, and found their beginnings by working at events. Positive feedback of their burgers lead them to working more events, until eventually setting up a temporary location in Kick Off Academy, located in Saar. The perfect setting for their type of food, the open-air location with grilled, juicy, and rich tasting burgers that have a hint of a smoky taste – the Joe Mama’s signature taste – became Joe Mama’s aesthetic. In their restaurant, Ahmed says it was important to maintain the same taste and to capture the outdoorsy feel that people would associate with Joe Mama’s – something they have come to be known for.
“The concept of the food is gourmet fast food”, Ahmed explains, and adds that the reason why they use that the term ‘fast food’ is because it cannot be defined by any particular type of cuisine, but rather how quickly the food is prepared. He says that he and his wife also enjoy eating a quick-prepared hearty meal made from fresh ingredients and self-created flavours and that is what Joe Mama’s is serving to its customers. Using only the freshest of vegetables, bread, and the meat that they season themselves, Joe Mama’s simple but delectable menu boasts a wide selection of starters, their ever popular burgers, and homemade dessert to end every meal on a sweet note. “None of the dishes on the menu are imitations or mimicked from anyone else. The sauce, the meat, even the kind of batter we use for our onion rings, everything is our own recipes”, Ahmed says, and explains that it was his wife who worked tirelessly on the menu to perfect all the dishes, and took into careful consideration all the different flavours that can be paired together to ensure each dish is delicious and leaves the customers asking for more. “She is pretty much responsible for 60-70% of what the customers eat. Basically, I started it, she bettered it, added to it, and pretty much made it what it is right now” he says. From using Gruyère cheese to add that extra flavour in an otherwise simple Mac n’ Cheese dish, to creating their own special sauces to use in their burgers, as well creating exciting drinks and desserts, Joe Mama’s is the ideal place for food fanatics, especially burger fans, looking for that extra flavour and zest in their meal.
Focusing on their main trade: burgers, Joe Mama’s wide selection of hearty burgers are a real treat for each fervent diner. The simple menu boasts only four burgers: Joe Mama’s Burger, Signature Burger, Truffle Burger Decadent, and the Crunchy Chicken Bun, but each is packed with a rich and delicious mix of ingredients that releases scrumptious flavours in each bite. Additionally, the menu also offers a seafood option with the Crispy Prawn Brioche, and the most traditional fast food reworked to suit the restaurant’s gourmet flavours, the Signature Dog and the Fat Spicy Dog. For those looking to have a lighter meal but still want to be a part of the Joe Mama’s experience can enjoy dishes from the starters such as the Joe Mama’s Wings, which come in three flavours: Mama’s Wings, Mango Habanero Wings, Samah’s Wings, or even the Mac N Cheese Bites with homemade dip. For those who know the importance of having something sweet to end a meal, Joe Mama’s Signature Moist Chocolate Hazelnut Cake is great for chocolate lovers, or for those who prefer a lighter dessert can enjoy the Homemade organic frozen vanilla custard with butter cookie crumble. The drinks as well can serve as desserts themselves as the thick Malt Shake, Cake Shake, or Caramelized Banana Milk, are served in tall glasses and their rich texture allows the diners to slowly enjoy the drinks.
The design of the place, Ahmed says, was also inspired by his wife’s desire to have a place that would give an outdoorsy feel indoor. With a brick wall on one side, and rope lights on the ceiling, and exposed piping, combined with the neutral colour furniture and clever placement of small plants on the tables gives the entire restaurant an inviting and comfortable feel. At night, Joe Mama’s comes to life in a completely different way as its interior is subtly illuminated by the lights and looks akin to being a part of a street food festival. An open palate design, the restaurant has been set up in a manner that caters to the locals and expatriates of all ages in the Kingdom without either feeling out of place. “Approachable and friendly…when you come here you don’t feel like you don’t belong” Ahmed says. He says the location was selected by Samah, who was adamant that El Mercado Mall is the most suitable location for their restaurant, and adds that in hindsight it was the best decision they made about where to set up their restaurant.
Being well versed in pop culture as well as having it influence his life today, Ahmed decorated the walls of Joe Mama’s with select pieces of nostalgic memorabilia from certain movies and TV shows he grew up watching. Movie posters of artists of days gone by such as Robert Redford and Paul Newman from the movie The Sting, to various frames of Dave Chapelle of his different characters on The Chapelle Show, Rick Moranis (of movies such as Ghostbusters and Honey I Shrunk The Kids) in a Darth Vader costume, and art from the cult-classics such as Rocky Balboa, and crime movie Pulp Fiction are placed on the walls, giving the restaurant an even more relaxed ambiance. “There are things that mean a lot to you that you want to hang on the walls, that have nothing to do with opening a restaurant, it is just what you feel comfortable being in and around, and things that make you feel a certain way. It is not for the customers, it is for me. When you do something from your heart, it will come across, it is about energy.”
For the future, Ahmed says they are looking to expand the menu further, and would consider opening a few more branches in Bahrain to make their appetizing dining options easily available for customers around Bahrain. Ahmed says one of the things they appreciate from their customers is the feedback they get and always want to know how they could have been better.
Greatly elevating the selection of good burger options in Bahrain, Joe Mama’s has developed as very strong following in the small time since it began serving food. Ahmed and Samah’s dedication and commitment to serving the highest quality gourmet in a location that welcomes everyone has resulted in the Kingdom becoming home to an exceptional and hearty dining experience.
For more information:
12pm-11.30pm Saturday – Wednesday
12pm-12.30am Thursday – Friday
El Mercado Mall, Janabiya
(00973) 3373 7694
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