A Chat with Yafo Kitchen’s Shai Fargian

Photo by LunahZon

How exactly did this fresh, delicious Israeli street food find its way to South Park? The man behind Charlotte’s favorite new Mediterranean joint speaks.

Where are you from, and what brought you to Charlotte?
I was born and raised in Israel, and eventually met my wife in Tel Aviv. She’s a Charlotte native and ended up going to graduate school in Chapel Hill, so we moved and have been here ever since.

Where did the inspiration for Yafo’s menu come from?
My childhood. All of these menu items are things I grew up eating. The rice is what my grandmother makes in Israel.  The sabich wrap is classic Israeli street food. Yafo hummus is prepared with the intensity of hummus back home, extremely labor-intensive and detail-oriented — like barbecue here.

What was the biggest challenge in opening Yafo?
Consistently replicating the profile of the food. We want every customer to have the same high quality experience, and with all these fresh ingredients and new chefs, it’s a lot of work to ensure that. Lemons can be more sour one day, so we need chefs that can recognize it and work with it.

How did you become partners with Frank Scibelli?
I was days away from signing a deal of my own when a friend told me that Frank Scibelli was interested in opening the same thing I was. And if Frank Scibelli wants to open the same thing, you should probably go with him.

What is admirable about Yafo’s Middle Eastern food?
It combines a lot of simple ingredients to make complex flavor. It’s inherently fresh, healthy, and light.