The Bataineh Family opened their beloved bakery in 2018, and while the desserts are superb, many customers begged the family to add savory Jordanian dishes to their menu, too. Now the Mashawi plate, homemade hummus, and shawarma sandwiches are stealing the show.
We sat down with Mohamed and his daughter, Diyana, to hear more about their journey of opening the restaurant in Kansas City.
Tell me about living in Jordan and the community culture there.
Diyana: You know how they say America is the melting pot of the world? Jordan’s the melting pot of the Middle East. We have a lot of like people coming in from Syria or Algeria, or just countries that have conflict. So, you really have a vibe of all of the Middle East and you see a lot of different foods and experience a lot of different accents from people there.
Mohamed: I would say it’s peaceful. Jordan is a very peaceful country. I must say, it’s a very family-oriented community.
How has food been a part of your culture? It seems like a lot of the food experiences that I’ve seen from Jordan include a lot of food, and a lot of people.
Mohamed: If one of my grandmothers cooks something, everybody gathers at her house, and the food brings us together. I can remember that even when I was seven years old, I used to go to my grandmother’s house, and I would see my uncle, my nieces, my nephews. So, it’s a very tight community.
Diyana: Back home when we have a gathering, we have this big stainless steel dish that sits right in the middle, and then people would literally gather around it. You’d be sitting shoulder to shoulder; it literally brings you to the center, and brings people to the center, toward the food. People don’t even have separate plates. We just put spoons all around that plate, and it just brings people physically together.
You have a lamb dish on the menu that is absolutely gorgeous. People just cannot believe that it came from a humble little strip mall restaurant in Kansas City. Talk to me a little bit about how that dish is prepared.
Mohamed: My wife, Kay, is the chef of the restaurant, and it has to be prepared by her. We marinate the lamb shank for forty-eight hours with different spices, and then we slow roast it in the oven. Then we rest it for two to three hours, until the meat falls off of the bone. I can’t tell you what we put in the lamb, but I can tell you my customers love it.
I also want to talk about the desserts since you started as a bakery. Tell me about some of the traditional desserts that you offer at the restaurant.
Mohamed: Of course, the baklava. Chef Kay, she’s really into baklava. Our first dessert was baklava. We have three kinds: walnut, pistachio, and we have almond.
Diyana: You get so many different textures. You get the crunchiness, and you get the saltiness of the nuts, then you get this sweetness. I think what really makes it special is the different textures that it has in there, all in one bite.
Mohamed: And of course, I must mention that the ghee that we make the baklava with is an organic ghee my wife makes.
She churns the ghee by hand for two hours, is that right?
Diyana: She’s a committed woman.
Mohamed: Chef Kay, she makes the recipe by hand. She does not tell anybody about her secret recipe. I don’t know the recipe. Sometimes I’m not allowed to go in the kitchen.
Diyana: Stay in the front, dad.
One thing I love about your restaurant is the level of hospitality you can expect from your family.
Diyana: Yes, we had a customer that came in, and I was taking their order, and they asked for kebabs. So I took the plate out, and they mentioned they wanted chicken kebabs, but we only have beef and lamb on our menu. My mom apologized and she took the plate back and said, “I’ll make it right now.”
So she took out our marinated chicken, she put it in the mixer, ground the chicken and she made chicken kebabs on the grill. We’ve never made it before, it’s not even on our menu. She’s very flexible. If you want something specific, she will make it for you. She has no problem with it. And she did it so naturally. She’s very sweet.
What’s one part of Jordanian culture that you wish Kansas City could either embrace more or take on as part of the culture of Kansas City?
Diyana: I would say to not listen to the stereotypes around Middle Eastern culture or Islam. To be curious and just really ask questions. I work as a cashier, and sometimes I would see my customers have a question in their eyes, but they don’t want to ask, scared that they would offend me. But if the question comes out of curiosity, we’re always more than happy to answer.
We always need more open mindedness, and more tolerance of the people around us, because Kansas City is growing. We left Kansas City for four years, and we came back. It has changed so much. It’s grown, it’s expanded, it’s gotten more diverse, and I think open-mindedness is something that we should always push.
Queen Sweets & Bakery
Address: 4107 N Cherry Street, North Kansas City, MO 64116
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To hear more of the Bataineh Family’s story, check out Episode Six of the Open Belly podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, or wherever you get your podcasts.