Beirut Restaurant sign

John Khoury: 35 Years of the Beirut Restaurant in West St. Paul

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Beirut Restaurant opened on Robert Street 35 years ago in 1984 serving authentic Lebanese food. It’s still there today, freshly opened after a $120,000 remodel.

“There really isn’t anything you could want or need that you couldn’t find in this city.”

John Khoury

Talking With John Khoury

John and Madelaine Khoury

John Khoury, the second generation owner (along with his wife Madelaine), started in the family business by washing dishes. He lived in West St. Paul for more than 25 years and today lives in Rosemount with Madelaine and their three boys.

John and Madelaine met in Lebanon and were married there in 2002. Today they run the restaurant, just like John’s parents did. When not working long hours at Beirut, John enjoys golf, watching or coaching his boys’ sports teams, and being a musician.

Do you have a favorite dish on the menu?

Because I was raised on this food, to pick a favorite is almost impossible. I am very proud that all of our dishes and items are extremely authentic and we’ve never wavered from that. 

Beirut Restaurant just celebrated 35 years. What are some of your greatest memories?

There are so many memories it’s hard to pick. Just seeing how we have evolved and grown over the years. Putting in our first bar here after only having a beer and wine license for the longest time was pretty cool. 

We had our first major remodel in 2001 during the same time 9/11 happened. I had a small TV on and the work just stopped while the construction guys and I just sat there and watched the towers come down. That was pretty surreal. 

When did you get your start in the family business? 

I started washing dishes here when I was 13 years old. Worked Friday and Saturday nights all through high school, except during football season when I was playing. 

Why did your parents open a Lebanese restaurant? Why did they choose West St. Paul? 

My parents and I immigrated to Minnesota from Lebanon when I was 2 years old in 1976. My dad’s uncle lived on the West Side and so West Saint Paul was just convenient for him. Family is extremely important in our culture. And because we are Orthodox Christians, there was also a church here, St. George. West Saint Paul was just a good fit. My parents have always known how to cook and an opportunity came about to take over a space in the back room of the old West Side Lanes building. From there my parents introduced the area little by little to our food. 

How has West St. Paul changed in the past 35 years?

It’s grown tremendously, which has made it very nice for business. The more people, the more business.  

What prompted this remodel? Why did you choose to reinvest here?

It was just time. We have been kicking around the idea for about two to three years. We contemplated moving to another city to a bigger space at least three times. But when we looked at it, this was our best option. I’m in a very favorable position, my parents own the building, and my wife and I own the business. Plus combine that with being in the same location for this long, people know where we are. 

Beirut Restaurant interior before the remodel.
Beirut Restaurant interior after the remodel.

What are you most excited about with the remodel?

Just the freshness of it.  Starting a new chapter. Being able to put mine and my wife’s vision and the ideas we’ve been talking about into fruition. 

What are you looking forward to in the future for both Beirut Restaurant and West St. Paul?

I wouldn’t mind finding another small space maybe someday and opening up a Middle Eastern grocery store and deli. I’m hoping West St. Paul continues to grow. I mean there really isn’t anything you could want or need that you couldn’t find in this city. 

Thanks to John Khoury for sharing his experience with a longtime family business in West St. Paul.

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