fb-pixel
QUICK BITE

In Somerville, Noor Mediterranean Grill fends off anti-Armenian attacks

‘COVID has been difficult enough for restaurants to deal with. Now we’re dealing with irate people, basically because we are of Armenian descent,’ says owner Hilda Darian Karageozian

Hilda Darian Karageozian and Arsen Karageozian own Noor Mediterranean Food, an Armenian-Lebanese restaurant in Somerville.
Hilda Darian Karageozian and Arsen Karageozian own Noor Mediterranean Food, an Armenian-Lebanese restaurant in Somerville.Essdras M Suarez/ Globe Staff/file

Where to: Noor Mediterranean Grill in Somerville’s Powder House Square.

Why: To support a restaurant targeted by alleged anti-Armenian attacks.

The back story: Hilda Darian Karageozian runs Noor with her husband, Arsen. She grew up in Somerville, the Armenian daughter of immigrants who fled Lebanon in the 1970s. Her husband, also Armenian, came to the United States from Lebanon in 2005.

“He’s living the American dream. He loved this country and decided he wanted to open a restaurant with the support of both of our families,” she says.

Karageozian says that her six-year-old restaurant has become a target of Azeri aggression and harassment, leading her to contact the Somerville police. She says that her family has received phoned death threats, incendiary social media posts, negative online reviews, and slurs since Sunday. She believes that the harassment was sparked by territorial conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Fighting escalated over the weekend over Nagorno-Karabakh, an Armenian-controlled enclave within Azerbaijan; dozens of people have been killed.

In addition to receiving obscene phone calls urging death to Armenians, she says that staff members and customers have been harassed in person. Karageozian, who has two children, says that she fears for her family’s safety. However, she says that police have been responsive, and she’s gotten support from loyal customers, too.

Advertisement



“People know us and love us. We respect every race and nationality without any prejudice,” she says.

Noor Mediterranean Grill's lule kebab.
Noor Mediterranean Grill's lule kebab. Essdras M Suarez/Globe Staff

What to eat: On a recent visit, business continued as usual, with masked staffers behind the counter preparing the family’s 105-year-old Lebanese-Armenian grape leaf recipe (a specialty of Hilda’s grandmother), shawarma, and chicken kebabs. Kibbee balls ($2.69), Lebanese ground beef croquettes made with bulghur wheat and pine nuts, are light and creamy, like biting into a meaty cloud. Get a Noor Works wrap ($11.99) tightly rolled in griddled saj, a delicate, stretchy disc of whole wheat bread containing a bouquet of tart pickles, sliced tomato, onion, a tangle of lettuce, French fries, and juicy broiled meat, shaved thin. Ask for extra whipped garlic sauce, and smear it inside. Tahini, a creamy sesame paste, is delicious splashed inside the sandwich, too.

Advertisement



What to drink: Patrons now take their food to go (order and pay in advance; find your brown bag on a table by the door). Pair the meal with your choice of home libation.

The takeaway: “COVID has been difficult enough for restaurants to deal with. Now we’re dealing with irate people, basically because we are of Armenian descent,” Karageozian says.

136 College Ave., Somerville, 617-622-5668, www.noorgrill.com


Kara Baskin can be reached at kara.baskin@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @kcbaskin.