Ibrahim Freaih always dreamed of opening a Middle Eastern restaurant. On Jan. 2, that dream came true. Freaih opened Petra Falafel at 7314 Madison St., which specializes in baba ghanoush, tabbouleh, chicken shawarma and, of course, falafels. 

As it turned out, Freaih had to travel 6,200 miles to realize his dream. Freaih was born in Jordan, the home of Petra, or “Rose City,” a famous archaeological site that contains tombs and temples carved into pink sandstone cliffs. Jordan shares borders with Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Palestine.

Freaih arrived in the U.S. in 1989. Although trained as a pharmacist, Freaih, like many immigrants, never worked in his chosen career in the U.S., instead making his paycheck by driving a cab. Mais, his daughter who also was born in Jordan and works as a laboratory technician in the U.S., said Freaih’s love of cooking Middle Eastern food began as kind of a hobby back in Jordan. But, once he arrived in Chicago, this hobby swelled into a passion, with Freaih more than willing to put in the long hours required to open and run a restaurant.

“He loves the reactions of people after they eat, when he sees them happy and smiling,” Mais said. 

Mais said that, although Ibrahim lives in Chicago, he knows this area well. “He loves the community,” she said, “and loves the people who live here. He talks all the time about how nice they are.”

“The last thing I want to say,” Mais added. “Is that my father is a person who has spent his life on us kids and his wife, who passed away a long time ago. Most of the time he thinks of us and our education—how we are going to be a success in our life. He is the greatest father in the world.”

Petra Falafel is located where the American Artworks Gallery used to do business and next door to where Studio 8 will open in February.  To view their menu go to facebook.com/petrafalafel123/.  They are open 10 am till 10 pm Sunday through Wednesday and Thursday through Saturday they close at midnight.  To call in an order dial 708-657-4002. Take-out and dine-in options available.