Danny Dubbaneh, co-founder of Middle Eastern flatbread and spices company Z&Z, has long felt affection for the restaurant space on Rockville’s Nelson Street. That’s where Dubbaneh’s grandfather Fayez Khawaja opened a fried chicken spot in 1982 after immigrating from Palestine. The restaurant’s orange booths served as a backdrop to family birthdays, first jobs, and countless fond memories.
“It became kind of like a second home for everyone,” says Dubbaneh, who grew up in Rockville with his brother and business partner, Johnny Dubbaneh. “Even in the 15 years between when they’d left the spot, we’d always kind of swing by and pop in, because there’s always nostalgic memories.”
Recently, the Dubbaneh brothers surprised their family with an emotional announcement: They would return to the building, not to revive Chicken Tonight, but to serve the Palestinian food that their grandfather feared would never sell. And after five years of touring farmers markets and selling their za’atar and sumac at grocery stores, Z&Z finally has its own brick-and-mortar home. Z&Z Manoushe Bakery opens in Rockville on Saturday, October 2, offering savory manoushe flatbreads and a market of Middle Eastern goods.
Watch this emotional video of the younger Dubbaneh generation surprising their grandmother and uncle with the new restaurant:
The interior has undergone renovations to create an open kitchen, so diners can watch the cooking process like they would at Z&Z’s farmers market kiosk. Expect an expanded version of the market menu with the same focus on manoushe scattered with za’atar and rich Tunisian olive oil, or another classic with added tomatoes, cucumbers, and mint.
The larger space will allow the team to introduce specials such as a sausage flatbread drizzled with Aleppo pepper-spiked honey, as well as meat pies stuffed with ground beef or lamb. Side dishes include tabbouli salad and shredded filo pastry knafeh for dessert. Down the line, the cafe will serve Arab breakfast platters.
A market inside the restaurant will sell curated goods such as chocolates from Dubai, Tunisian olive oil, and Z&Z’s collection of spices. There won’t be any indoor seating when the restaurant opens—instead, diners can snag one of the 20 outdoor seats or picnic in Woodley Gardens Park across the street.
“Everything we serve, you could potentially eat with your hands—which is how we like it,” says Dubbaneh. “These are the foods we love, these are the foods we grew up on. We know a lot of people feel the same way and we want to share it.”
Z&Z Manoushe Bakery. 1111 Nelson St., Rockville.