NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Mohammed Almandalawi learned to cook watching YouTube videos.

He’s bringing his skills to Iraqi House, the restaurant in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. He’s not just the owner, but also the chef, manager, and server.

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“When I have a chance, I clean the dishes,” he said.

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A former swimming coach, Almandalawi decided to open a restaurant for his native cuisine when he saw the opportunity.

“I love cooking, and I didn’t see any Iraqi restaurant here in New York,” he said.

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On the menu, you’ll find baba ghanoush, hummus, and lamb skewers, in addition to Iraqi specialties like makhlama—eggs scrambled with onions and spiced lamb, served over fluffy basmati rice scented with cinnamon and bay leaf.

Makhlama at Iraqi House (credit: CBS2)

Cardamom, curry, onions, and garlic play a major role on his menu.

“Food without spices is without any taste,” he said.

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His typical workday can stretch to fourteen hours long. Thankfully, he gets help on weekend mornings from his wife Manar, who is otherwise home caring for the couple’s newborn twin boys.

“No sleep at all, even at night,” she said.

She helps to stuff vegetables and grape leaves with rice and ground lamb, a three-hour process, for a hearty dish called dolma.

Stuffed vegetables prepared for dolma at Iraqi House (credit: CBS2)

“The dolma, before, we served it only weekends. But now, everyone asks for it,” she said.

It has become a daily offering.

Mohammed says that there aren’t enough Iraqi natives in Bay Ridge to sustain his restaurant—he depends on local customers, many of whom arrive as first-timers to Iraqi cuisine.

For Manar, the Iraqi menu is easy to love.

“It’s cozy,” she said.

Iraqi House
7215 Third Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11209
(718) 833-3338

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