Open Sesame owner Ali Kobeissi spiced up Belmont Shore 20 years ago when he brought a taste of Lebanon with him to Long Beach.
“Twenty years in the restaurant business tells me that our concept and cuisine is a very unique one, and one that will be around for many years to come,” Kobeissi, 51, said. “Of course, I could not have done this without the support of many amazing employees and customers alike.”
To celebrate the milestone, Open Sesame is hosting an anniversary block party later this month as a thank you to customers. And in the meantime, Open Sesame will be doing business as usual, which means: Making everything from scratch using imported authentic spices, pickles and oils.
“I don’t give out my recipes,” Kobeissi said. “They are all personal, from my family with my own little flavor… And, I import spices from the spice factory where I worked when I was 15 years old.”
The success of Open Sesame, he said, has created an awareness in Long Beach about Lebanese food, and its growing popularity has made way for two expansions, with the restaurant now occupying multiple storefronts on the north side of Second Street near Corona Avenue. Even with that extra space, people are often waiting outside during peak hours.
“I love it when I hear that Open Sesame is someone’s favorite restaurant,” he said.
Although he calls Belmont Shore his home, Kobeissi continues to take annual trips back to Lebanon whenever possible. He left the country to escape war, but said his parents and siblings are still there and stay in touch through social media and the Internet.
When his mother visited from Lebanon for the first time, she saw the restaurant and didn’t have words: “She looked at me and kissed me. My family is happy and proud.”
A true family business, Kobeissi’s three children are involved as well, and his eldest son is now a sous chef and bakes all the desserts. The family has plans to soon start selling their own baked bread and possibly introducing an authentic Lebanese bakery menu in the near future.
The anniversary block party will happen from 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 28, closing Nieto Avenue from Second Street to the first alleyway. There will be live music and samples of cuisine.
When asked if he thinks Open Sesame will be around for another 20 years, Kobessi said, “More like 80 years.”
Open Sesame is located at 5215 E. Second St. There’s also a location in Los Angeles.