AL-in on The Heights
Moe Elsaadi, who operates the restaurant and convenience store with his father Toufic, tells CultureMap that the family chose the Heights property after construction delays and the coronavirus pandemic delayed completion of Railway Heights, the food hall and market they had originally targeted for a second location. Instead, the restaurant will join Hando and The Bearded Baker in the heart of The Heights. If all goes well, the new location will open in July.
“I live in The Heights, off 15th street,” Elsaadi says. “The Mediterranean presence is very weak in the area . . . We’ve done so well in Montrose, and we’ve done well on delivery platforms. I figured moving north would extend our radius and get us out there to more people.”
With just 700 square feet, The Heights location of AL Quick Stop will only operate as a restaurant without the convenience store and grocery items that are part of the Montrose original. In addition, the menu will drop burgers and tacos to focus on Mediterranean staples such as gyros, chicken shawarma, and felafel.
Since joining the family business full time a few years ago, Elsaadi says he’s expanded the menu with fusion items such as a gyro burrito and shawarma fries. He’s also upgraded the preparation of a signature item by cooking the chicken shawarma on the same style of vertical roaster the restaurant uses for its gyros. “It’s juicier and has way better flavor,” he says.
While many restaurants have struggled during the pandemic, AL Quick Stop has been able to grow its sales. Elsaadi credits that success to serving affordable, tasty food that travels well, which has made the restaurant popular for both to-go and on third party delivery apps. Using those platforms comes at a price, but Elsaadi thinks they’re worth utilizing for places like his than can push high volume.
“At the end of the day, the fees do suck, but [the apps] are a valuable resource. We’ve got to take what we can from it.”
Elsaadi also clarifies the restaurant’s name. Originally opened as “Al’s Quick Stop” in the early ’90s, his father changed the name to “AL” (no apostrophe), because it’s the Arabic word for “the.” Therefore, patrons may read its name as “The Quick Stop,” which accurately describes its purpose. Whether in Montrose or the new Heights location, the restaurant aspires to be “the” place a person goes for an inexpensive, quick, satisfying meal.
“AL Quick Stop has been a Montrose institution for over 30 years,” Re:vive director of leasing and marketing Monica Danna tells CultureMap. “The Heights is lucky to be gaining a second outpost of this Mediterranean Houston gem.”