After launching four weeks ago, the third location of Alboumeh’s spicy local chain has attracted mass attention, which the chef-owner attributes to its location.
“Brookhaven is a great neighborhood. There are a lot of young professionals, families and people who travel from Chamblee/Doraville to visit the variety of restaurants the area has to offer,” he said.
All three of Alboumeh’s restaurants have pet-friendly patios and cater not only to young professionals, but also to families.
“We try to create incentives so guests come back,” he said in a phone interview.
In addition to daily specials, the restaurant offers a brunch with over 15 menu items and an assortment of mimosas.
“I think the combination of the food, our staff and, not just our philosophy, but where we stand in providing consistent experiences is what makes this location so successful,” Alboumeh said.
Before Alboumeh opened Red Pepper Taqueria in Brookhaven, he operated Maya Steaks & Seafood on Roswell Road just outside the Perimeter in Sandy Springs. That high-end restaurant closed about six months ago, after a couple of year in business, despite praise for the food. The issue was the location, which lacked parking and forced diners to contend with constant construction amid the City Springs-related overhaul of the area, Alboumeh said.
He said the high volume of traffic on Roswell Road was a big problem. “Sandy Springs could be the next Buckhead, but our roads have to be ready for it.”
Alboumeh said Maya used to park around 20 cars in its lot, which left little room for more guests.
Maya got more press coverage than all three Red Peppers combined, including in the AJT, but because the traffic was so bad, it never took off, Alboumeh said. The restaurant did generate business on the weekends, he said, but it was not enough to stay open or to devote the necessary time and energy to it.
Each Red Pepper location offers a great vibe with more than 30 televisions to entertain avid sports fans and homemade margaritas to please anyone. The homemade approach is a key part of the experience, Alboumeh said. “People expect fresh and unique standards, and that’s something we don’t want to jeopardize because, at the end of the day, providing your guests with the best is what will keep them coming back.”
When he is not serving guests in Brookhaven, Buckhead or Toco Hills, Alboumeh enjoys using unique flavors and techniques to create Mediterranean and Mexican dishes or plates with Spanish and Mexican roots.
He said he mostly draws his inspiration from the old-school Mexican restaurants his family visited in the early 1990s while living in Athens, Ga. But he has tweaked the dishes to create a more modern menu.
“I am cooking the same food I was 10 years ago, but with more options and a diversified menu which includes fresh, local ingredients,” he said.
Because the younger generation’s palate has changed, albeit for the better, many were having a hard time understanding the menu before he updated it.
“The new generation wants quality, value and something fresh, but at the same time they don’t just want chips and salsa,” Alboumeh said.
‘That’s what so great about Red Pepper. You don’t just get an enchilada with red or green sauce. You have the option of a variety of lamb or fish tacos, blackened or grilled fresh salmon, and smoked brisket. It’s a combination of everything, and every single dish I make, I’m driven to create something genuine and unique.”
The chef was born in Lebanon and moved to Europe at a young age when his father decided to attend medical school in Spain, so Alboumeh was raised with Spanish and Italian flavors, which he still uses to create dishes that reflect his passion for food.
“I’ve been surrounded by food since I was 14 years old, and now that I’m 44, I look back and think the last 30 years have been a great journey for me,” he said. “Food is something I love and enjoy, but, like everything else, it also comes with its own unique challenges.”
While Alboumeh is not Jewish, he has been involved with the community in support of several nonprofit organizations.
He is a partner of the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival and works with Second Helpings Atlanta, which started at Temple Sinai and battles hunger by rescuing and distributing leftover food that otherwise would be thrown away. For example, he donated 20 percent of diners’ bills at Maya on certain nights last spring to Second Helpings.
“I don’t like to take credit for anything I do in the community,” Alboumeh said. “I think it’s a blessing that we are here, able to help others and enjoy sharing that blessing with others.”