Students’ favorite ethnic restaurants in Kent


Chelsae Ketchum

Laziza’s Hummus is a popular Mediterranean-style appetizer made with pureed chick peas, fresh garlic, tahini sauce and lemon juice garnished with parsley and olive oil, January 18. Photo by Chelsae Ketchum.

Rachel Sluss

When asked, “What’s your favorite ethnic restaurant in Kent?” many students ponder for a moment, look up and reply, “Does Chipotle count? I eat there all the time.”

Chipotle is technically a Mexican grill, but don’t let this widespread Americanized chain take away from other authentic ethnic restaurants in town. While Chipotle is a tasty standby, trying different cuisines from all over the globe can be a great — and delicious — learning experience.

Many international students have had to sacrifice their usual eating habits and have had to become accustomed to American food and restaurants, but Kent does offer several choices for ethnic food on campus and across the city.

Ahmed Alsadoun, a nursing graduate student, said he likes to eat at Main Street Continental Grill because it serves Mediterranean food, similar to what he is used to eating back home in Saudi Arabia.

“That’s probably the closest food to home we have here,” Alsadoun said.

Main Street Continental Grill, owned by Michael and Nicole Awad, is rooted and located only in Kent. The restaurant began as Main Street Coney’s, noted for its burgers and fries, but it expanded to include Mediterranean cuisine.

Michael Awad said some of the restaurant’s most popular dishes are the Chicken Shawarma Sandwich and the Greek Gyro, which includes fresh lamb.

“We make everything from scratch,” Michael Awad said. “We take pride in the old- fashioned way of cooking here. It’s very healthy and student friendly.”

The family also owns Laziza, which is more of a fine-dining restaurant, which offers a mix of Mediterranean and Lebanese cuisine.

Mohammad Alkhuzami, sophomore psychology major, said stores in Kent do not carry many of the ingredients or foods he grew up eating in Saudi Arabia, so he’s gotten used to eating at fast food restaurants in Kent.

“American food isn’t healthy at all,” Alkhuzami said. “I do prefer [American] fast food because I can eat it quickly.”

Alsadoun agreed that he has difficulty finding traditional ingredients found in Saudi Arabia to prepare his favorite meals.

“I’d make Kabsa — it’s rice and chicken,” Alsadoun said. “There is opportunity to make this. Other foods we would need ingredients we would have to go out of our way to get.”

Both Alkhuzami and Alsadoun said they would like to see a restaurant in Kent that serves more traditional Saudi Arabian food.

Ahid Aljabri, a freshman finance major from Oman, said she would like to be able to recreate traditional Arabian food while in Kent, but she’s found a few favorite American restaurants.

“I really like Subway for a day-to-day basis,” she said. “American food is really good, but I don’t like all of it. Turkey is probably my favorite food here.”

Some international students have to travel outside of Kent to enjoy the cuisine they are used to eating and preparing in their home countries.

“There aren’t stores around here that offer ingredients to make food from home,” Sureeporn Suwannaosod, graduate nursing major, said. “I go to the Asian Market in Akron and buy a lot of food at once because the drive is inconvenient.”

Suwannaosad, who is an international student from Thailand, said she knows many international students who visit the market once or twice a semester to stock up on ingredients. She said Thai dishes typically feature more vegetables than standard American meals.

“Some American foods are OK, [but] they can be very oily,” Suwannaosad said. “America has fruits that we don’t have in Thailand. So I’ve been eating a lot more fruits here.”

She said she visits Cleveland to dine at her favorite Thai restaurant, Map of Thailand. Students in Kent can get a taste of Thai cuisine at Wild Papaya, a restaurant that prepares all its meals with ingredients imported from Thailand. Every dish is made with at least one herb and fresh vegetables. The menu features items like pot stickers, tempura, seafood coconut soup and crispy or country-style pad Thai.

Kent has a number of Chinese food restaurants that are popular with American students, including Evergreen Chinese Buffet.

Rong Han, a graduate communication studies major from China, said her favorite place to find Chinese food is JUMP Asian Express in the HUB.

“It’s not exactly authentic, but it’s pretty good,” Han said. “It’s very different from my hometown food.”

Zhou Zhou, graduate communication studies major, said she prefers preparing more authentic Chinese food rather than eating at the American restaurants in Kent.

“There are so many dishes from home I would want to recreate here,” Zhou said. “But I can’t pick just one dish. It’s so hard to choose.”

Contact Rachel Sluss at [email protected].