Ayat, a Palestinian restaurant in Brooklyn, has been serving people of various backgrounds since it opened its doors in 2020, including Palestinians and Jews. But the couple who runs the eatery said it is now being targeted in anti-Palestinian backlash due in part to recent events.
“Top dishes for Palestinian cuisine is Mensa, which is lamb cooked in fermented yogurt over rice…bread and the yogurt sauce,” said Abdul Elenani, the owner of Ayat, which has locations in Brooklyn and Staten Island.
Elenani takes pride in the largely Palestinian menu at Ayat, which he owns with his wife and named after her.
They had even joined NY1’s “Mornings On 1” earlier this year to talk about their success.
“We were very surprised about how many people want to be cultured into this kind of food and are exploring it,” co-owner Ayat Masoud said during the appearance.
They joined "Mornings On 1" shortly after The New York Times named Ayat one of the 100 best restaurants in the city. But Elenani and his wife say the positive press and the Israel-Hamas war have generated some negative reviews.
“Online profiles are a big deal for businesses in New York,” Elenani said.
When the couple noticed the slew of online one-star bad reviews recently, they immediately thought it was because Ayat is a Palestinian-centric businesses — featuring Palestinian cuisine, flags and artwork.
They believe their business has been swept up in what they call a wave of Palestinian hate due to the Israel-Hamas war. Plus, they said the’ve been the subject of sudden bad reviews during previous global events involving Palestinians.
“The conflict is always there. But every time there’s an uprising it kind of brings out that reminder that people need to have this need to fight each other,” Masoud said.
Elenani, who is of Egyptian descent, said this recent setback won’t deter them. He said they’ve been able to get Google to remove more than 110 bad reviews in the last week or so.
Additionally, the couple is has opened up four more locations in addition to their Bay Ridge flagship: two in Sunset Park, one on Staten Island and another in the East Village. The husband and wife duo also operate several other Palestinian restaurants in the city along with another one in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
“I think if people just took the time to understand what’s happening around them, understand all the different cultures and religions that live within us over here, we’re going to live a lot better because we understand each other,” Elenani said.
However, the most exciting project on the horizon is the couple’s new baby, which they’re expecting to be delivered any day now.