3003 SE Division St.
Open daily from 11 am to 9 pm
Saied Samaiel’s journey from Syria to Lebanon, Cyprus, Turkey and Greece before arriving in the United States to settle in Portland is one filled with adventure, suspense, fear, danger, rewards and respect.
Chef Saied opened his first Aybla Grill location at SW 9th and Alder St. His newest adventure lands him at the recently opened Aybla Grill on SE Division St.
The name Aybla (or Ebla) originates with an archaeological site near Chef Saied’s home in Syria. It was uncovered in 1955 to reveal a very old civilization which flourished in the 3rd and 5th millennium B.C. He selected the name for his restaurant to remind us of life’s hidden and surprise treasures.
For Chef Saied, work began at age six in Syria.
“I was a country boy. We had no phone or television. We grew our own wheat for bread, we grew potatoes, milked the cows and made our own cheese,” he said. “We used to haul sandbags twice our weight. It was hard work.”
He grew up in a small farming village, as one of many siblings. When he ventured away from the farming village and his homeland, his first real job was dishwashing at the Madera hotel in Lebanon, where he learned his way around a kitchen.
He traveled and worked in Cypress, Turkey, Bulgaria and found his way to Greece where he received his formal training. After more than ten years, he ended up here in 2001.
Once in Portland, Saied attended Portland Community College and landed a cooking job at the Hilton Hotel downtown. It was at the Hilton where he got the idea to open a food cart. His first cart opened in 2004 and was one of the first ten food carts (#9) here. That food cart remains open, today, at SW 9th and Alder St.
Business blossomed and he now owns and operates several food carts in Portland and Beaverton. His catering business is growing and provides catering for movie sets, television shows, large corporations, weddings and parties. His mobile food truck can be seen around the Metro area serving events for OMSI, Moda Center, Mississippi Street Fair and numerous other community events. He has advised and supported budding entrepreneurs trying to get into the food cart business.
Movie catering has been an adventure, including mad dashes in the middle of the night to remote sets on Mt. Hood all the way to Pacific City on the Oregon coast.
On the day I visited, I marveled at the handmade mosaic Turkish chandelier and 100-year-old hand-carved wooden room divider over a cup of authentic Turkish coffee.
The menu at Aybla Grill features classic Mediterranean dishes including Gyros, Falafel, pastas, salads, soups and appetizers with a wide variety of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options at budget friendly prices.
“It has to be fresh,” he said.
Believing strongly in giving back to the community and supporting the local economy, Chef Saied hires locally and supports many charities and causes including the Alzheimer’s Association, Find the Children, refugee groups and KBOO radio, to name a few.
This is a casual, family restaurant on a busy corner of SE Division St., with brightly painted walls, lyrical music and a friendly and helpful staff.
Open seven days a week from 11 am to 9 pm, 3003 SE Division, Aybla Grill serves up authentic Mediterranean delicacies made with fresh, local ingredients.