“I opened Zayna Mediterranean Grill in August 2019. ‘Zayna’ is my grandmother’s name. When I decided I was going to open this restaurant, I didn’t tell anyone in my family for six months. Then, I had a friend bring my family to my restaurant one day to eat.”

“My parents are a little older, so when I came out from the kitchen my father said, ‘What’s Adam doing here?’ I told my parents this was my restaurant, and that it’s named after my father’s mother. I wanted to give that gift to them.”

“I won the green card lottery and moved to the U.S. in 1999 from Casablanca, Morocco. I am the middle sibling, and I was the last to move to the U.S. I studied chemistry in university, but when I arrived I started working as a pizza delivery driver and cab driver. From there with the help of friends and my community, I became a serial business owner.”

“A few years later, my friend and I opened a hookah bar together at Noble and Milwaukee. It’s still there. Then I decided to move to Hammond, Indiana, where I bought and ran a gas station for 10 years. I wanted to move back to Chicago to be closer to family, so I sold the gas station to relocate.”

“I worked in the limo business for several months while I was deciding whether to stay in Chicago or move back to Morocco with my parents since they are aging. My friend has a couple restaurants and encouraged me to also try the restaurant business, get something up and running then I could travel back and forth. ”

“I agreed it was a good idea. When you work as a cab driver, you learn the city really well, where all the restaurants and businesses are located. I picked West Town because in this area there are a lot of Italian restaurants, but not really Mediterranean options. We’re close to downtown and many office buildings, and we get a lot of foot traffic in the summertime.”

“We opened right before the pandemic, so business was doing well, but the pandemic was a difficult time. At some points, I would work two or three positions at the same time to keep the business alive because it was difficult to bring on staff. The online and delivery orders helped sustain us, and I was able to bring on more staff. I’m very thankful to have made it this far.”

“I hope and plan to keep growing the business. I would love to add Moroccan dishes to the menu or open a second location with Moroccan and Mediterranean food. I also would love to open a location or café in my hometown in Morocco after establishing this business here as a family legacy.”

Adam Arbil
Owner, Zayna Mediterranean Grill
Chicago, Illinois