Indiana is welcoming a new restaurant at a familiar downtown location.
Lemoona, a new restaurant owned by Ahmad and Mauve Tahat, is now open at 701 Philadelphia St. The name comes from the Arabic word for lemon and is also Mauve’s nickname.
Ahmad, originally from Jordan, hopes to offer healthy fresh food options including vegan and gluten-free dishes in their kitchen. Most food will be a Greek-style cuisine with some Jordanian entrees and flavors. Overall it will offer hybrid Mediterranean dishes and options.
“Mediterranean food is very similar, except for a matter of what you use for this or that,” said Ahmad. “There’s some differences in spices, lots of little different details, but overall it’s the same food, it’s just who’s cooking it.”
All of the food will be cooked fresh and in house, everything will be prepared in the restaurant, giving the fare a homemade feeling.
“We’re trying to stay away from frozen, pre-prepared food,” said Ahmad.
Mauve and Ahmad moved to Indiana about four years ago after becoming Ph.D. candidates in the literature and criticism department at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. They both have experience in the restaurant industry.
“Ahmad has been in the industry for about 10 years, and I have some serving experience,” Mauve said. She is also currently employed by IUP as a temporary faculty member.
In addition to the restaurant kitchen, Lemoona will also have a caf￩ and a small grocery section. The caf￩ portion aims to be a place for students and community members to have a place to hang out, study and be comfortable.
The grocery section will have items catering to the Arabic community within the area, but is it open and available for everyone. The foods available are ones that are universally liked, the owners said. Some items will allow shoppers to create their own versions of the food offered at the restaurant at home.
“There will be things to have like chickpea and eggplant dip,” said Ahmad. “Ours is fresh, but this will be in packages for you to take home.”
“It will be great for people who cook and want to try it themselves,” added Mauve.
They hope to keep the business open fairly late in the evening to cater to students who might be up at night studying. The grocery and caf￩ portions will be open later than the restaurant to allow time for cleanup and preparation. There will be some options for sandwiches and kitchen-prepared food kept in coolers in the grocery portion, however, if patrons miss the kitchen hours.
“We just noticed, as students, that a lot of places aren’t open as late as some folks want to go out to meet or study. Sometimes they like to be out of the house, so we hope to be open a little later,” said Mauve.
“The best part about this investment,” Ahmad added, “is that we are students, and we know that this sort of thing is good to have for long hours. A lot of times you get done with your day when other caf￩s and places are closed, so there’s nowhere left to go. So we hope to be that sort of place.”
Both Ahmad and Mauve also hope to keep the tradition of the building going in the downtown area.
“We know there’s a big history in this place for the town,” said Mauve. “It was Gatti Pharmacy and some other caf￩s were here before us. … It’s just a really nice location. We really love living here. We got married here and had our son here, so we wanted to invest something back into the town.”
“It’s more than just a business. We want to try to move things around. We’re part of this town now and as a family we want to help give back and bring some new energy into the town,” Ahmad said.
Moving forward, the couple hope to expand to have events held at the restaurant. They also hope to grow into the rest of the building’s space to host art shows or poetry readings and other community events.
Now that the restaurant is open, they are most looking forward to seeing the impact that their new venture makes on the community.
“We really want to have something for everyone here,” Mauve said. “I’m looking forward to seeing how people come together here.”
“I’m not trying to be rich from this business,” Ahmad said. “I just want to see something grow in this town as we’ve grown in this town as a family. I love this idea that we’re doing something and I really want to see it succeed.”
Lemoona is open Monday through Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday hours are from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.