Fatima’s Grill — one of Los Angeles County’s busiest restaurants with Lebanese Mexican roots — is making its way to metro Detroit. The wildly popular chain famous for its Flamin’ Hot Cheetos-laced asada fries, halal shawarma platters, and birria crunchwraps — will open its first Michigan location at 14600 Warren Ave., founder Ali Elreda confirmed with Eater on Thursday.
That Dearborn is one of Fatima’s Grill’s first few forays outside of Southern California is quite possibly the perfect move, given the constant, high demand for original, all-halal menus in metro Detroit — home to one of the largest Muslim communities in the country.
The expansion also holds a special place in Elreda’s heart.
Elreda tells Eater that he was born in Detroit and that his father worked for Ford Motor Company, before the family relocated to the Los Angeles area when he was 5 years old. He says being brought up in a Muslim household, he was always cognizant of the fact that most of the fast-food options out there were off-limits as most chains do not adhere to halal traditions.
“Us being Muslims, knowing that we can only eat halal, I don’t think we can walk into a steakhouse, a McDonald’s, or a Burger King, or anywhere else and just have a regular beef burger because we have rules and regulations and our meat has to be halal. I don’t think we have that diversity [of dining options] like everybody else has,” says Elreda.
That’s begun to change over years. Chains like Sonic, and more recently Dave’s Hot Chicken have entered the Dearborn market with halal offerings, aware of the tremendous interest. A growing number of locally-owned eateries also focus on offering a diverse array halal-friendly menus, including burgers, Detroit-style pizza, and yes, Lebanese Mexican food, such as the Beirock, a Lebanese and Mexican restaurant in Garden City. In fact, Omar Anani — a 2022 finalist for a James Beard Award for Best Chef: Great Lakes — hosted a Mexican-style iftar pop-up during Ramadan this year featuring halal lamb barbacoa, an event that highlights halal diners’ desire for more choices in their eating experiences.
An opening date for the Dearborn Fatima’s Grill has not yet been determined, but Elreda says he’s hopeful to get through health department approvals quickly.
What started out as a halal meat market around 2014 with a small hot food section in the southeast LA County suburb of Bell, Fatima’s first standalone spot opened in 2016 in a strip mall in nearby Downey. Using his savvy with Snapchat and Instagram, Fatima’s (named after Elreda’s daughter) quickly found a loyal following throughout southeast LA County, known for its colorfully, outrageous menu of Lebanese Mexican-influenced creations. Today, three franchise locations are spread out in Montebello, Paramount, and Long Beach, with plans for outposts in downtown LA, Brooklyn, and Dearborn.