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Al-Amir, 2930 Devine Street: 23 December 2007 (name change Sept 2012)   14 comments

Posted at 8:38 pm in closing

To my mind, Al-Amir was the best Middle Eastern restaurant in Columbia. My favorites were the falaffel with fresh tabouli salad and the fresh seeded Damascus bread hot from the brick oven. The inside dining area was distinctive with its wraparound bench seating, strewn with pillows. My four year old neice loved how she could walk all the way around the table. It was like a little play-area with dining for her.

In mid-December, I noticed a banner outside noting that the restaurant would be closing on 23 Dec. I don't know what happened as they always seemed to be doing a good business to me. Perhaps they were over-extended. They had opened a satellite site on Clemson Road a few years back which didn't last long, and had recently (I believe) opened a location on St. Andrews Road. That location will continue. If I had to speculate, I would guess that the site rent is lower there.

The Mediterranean Tea Room remains an option for Middle Eastern food on Devine Street, but I find its hours to be really odd.

UPDATE 3 July 2008:

The new restaurant in the Al-Amir space, Saffron is open and has been for some weeks now. The Free Times is ambivalent.

UPDATE 12 April 2010: Added full street address to post title.

UPDATE 19 September 2011 -- Well, after the failure of Tabouli (which followed Saffron), Al-Amir is coming back. Did not see that one coming! Hat tip to my sister:

UPDATE 23 October 2012: Well, it is getting kind of complicated keeping track of the history of this building. First it was Al-Amir, then that closed (which was when I first made this post, the first ever closing on Columbia Closings!), then it was Saffron, then it was Tabouli, then it was Al-Amir again, and *now* it is Arabesque Mediterranean Cusine.

In this case, I think it is simply a name change. The phone number remains the same, as does the staff (who are still stumbling over the new name). I suspect this latest sobriquet can be explained by the yellow ABL Notice in the window. It's always been pretty clear that the Al-Amir restaurants would not serve alcohol.



Written by ted on December 30th, 2007

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14 Responses to 'Al-Amir, 2930 Devine Street: 23 December 2007 (name change Sept 2012)'

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  1. I really don't know how well they're going to do in the old 123 location. I hope things work out -- it's a great establishment. Oh... and if you can get over the "it's in an old house on a crappy part of St. Andrews Road" thing, Eli's is also pretty good -- it's Lebanese.


    8 Feb 08 at 9:42 pm

  2. I've been to Eli's twice when I was in the mood for tabouli on that side of town, and both times they were out (what I ended up ordering was good though). I'll have to give it another try.


    8 Feb 08 at 9:58 pm

  3. Try Elie's on St. Andrews Road close to Broad River Road. Much better and larger portions!


    14 Mar 08 at 4:05 pm

  4. So sad that Al-Amir's closed! Not often do I go over to St Andrews. But you should put up a follow up when the new restaraunt opens in its place, we'll see if it compares.


    27 Mar 08 at 12:11 pm

  5. I saw the building the other day. Apparently the new restaurant will be called "Saffron".


    27 Mar 08 at 12:16 pm

  6. The new Al-Amir is still pretty awesome. The menu has changed some, but otherwise, same great quality food. The only thing I'm not necessarily happy about is that I really liked the bench-esque interior in the old Al-Armir; the new one is lacking this and just has your regular booths/tables.


    1 Apr 08 at 3:17 pm

  7. I went there (St. Andrews Road) last Saturday for the first time, and found the food still quite good. The Damascus bread seemed a bit less puffy, but still very nice. I agree about the benches though. Unfortunately, I'm a lot less likely to be in that area than in the Shandon area at mealtime. Actually, the old Clemson Road location was my favorite for pure ease of access given the proximity to I-20.


    2 Apr 08 at 11:39 am

  8. The Devine Street location was always excellent. I have been to the St. Andrews location a few times but it is never as good as on Devine St. I wish they wouldv'e stayed on Devine St. The food was awesome


    20 Jul 08 at 3:51 pm

  9. I also miss the Devine Street location. We went there often. I tried Saffron recently and it was ok but not nearly as good as the Al-Amir. We miss the Damascus Bread most. None of their other locations were/are anywhere near us; the Devine St. location appeared to do good businesss and I wish they would come back and stay in one location instead of expanding.


    22 Jul 08 at 8:31 am

  10. IMHO, the Al-Amir's on St, Andrew's serves watered down, "what white people want" versions of their dishes. The baba ghanoush was particularly egregious the one time we went -- soupy, not at all smoky, and not at all like what was served at the Devine Street location (where we ate many happy meals over the years). We've learned from friends (so take this with a grain of salt) that the family had moved to the St. Andrews area and preferred to have a shorter commute, so opted to just operated the one location there. As others have commented, the St. Andrews locaiton just doesn't feel Mediterranean, and the food just didn't taste as authentic.
    We knew folks who partnered with the family to open the Sparkleberry/Clemson Road location. The family seriously violated Ted's rule about not running out of mundane things. In an insh'allah (sp?) mode, if we are meant to have yogurt today to make our signature smoothies, then we will have it. Otherwise, no smoothies. Or no lamb, etc.
    Also agreeing with other posters, if you're willing to risk early closures, and perhaps them being out of something, Elie's makes a much better choice for Middle Eastern food on the St. Andrews side of town.


    2 Jan 09 at 7:34 pm

  11. Has anyone tried "Tabouli" in the old Devine Al-Amir location yet?


    3 Jan 09 at 12:34 am

  12. Well, this is interesting. I get to update the first closing I ever posted -- to undo it. Sort of.


    19 Sep 11 at 12:29 am

  13. Hopefully they don't staff this one with the current management/staff of the Village at Sandhills location. We went in there Saturday afternoon and it took a couple of mins for the staff who was standing around to realize that we wanted a table. 15 mins after we sat down and got menus and water, we walked out. I did mention to the lady working on a laptop at the front table that we would have stayed if someone had taken our order.


    19 Sep 11 at 7:26 am

  14. That's too bad to hear about the lack of attentiveness during your Saturday visit, Matt. While some of the staff during our visits have obviously been 'in training', we've always had pretty good service, maybe once a bit slow, and the food here has been pretty good, better than when it was at Sparkleberry Crossing for whatever reason. That said, haven't been in in a while, so hopefully it's not one of the 'early signs of restaurant closing'.


    19 Sep 11 at 8:33 am

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