Ramadan brings families and friends together for late-night dining

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News
Employee Mervat Charara pulls out a tray of mamoul, a pistachio pastry that is popular during Ramadan.

Sunday marks the start of Ramadan, the annual holiday when Muslims fast from dawn to sundown for about a month. 

Naturally, this makes for very hungry groups of people once the night falls. One of the annual gathering spots for Ramadan dining is Shatila Bakery in Dearborn. This year the family-owned business is celebrating 40 years of colorful cakes, baklava, kashta, cookies and ice cream. 

Founded in 1979 by the late Riad Shatila, the cafe and bakery — which has a large dining area accented with giant palm trees — is now run by his wife,  Zeinat Shatila, and their three daughters, Nada, Tanya and Batoul.

Like running the cafe together, Tanya Shatila says Ramadan is a family-centric affair. 

Tanya Shatila, daughter of Riad Shatila, the late founder of the business, is now a  manager at Shatila Bakery.

"We have a lot of people come out and sit on the patio area, big groups of families. It's a very family-orientated holiday," she said. "Especially now with the warmer weather, too, people like to go out after sitting at home during the winter time. I think the weather plays a big aspect in Ramadan."

Shatila, who takes care of office work and customer service for the bakery, said during the weeks-long holiday one of their more popular items are kashta cream. 

"It's a rosewater-flavored cream and we offer a lot of different desserts with that filling," she said. "It's almost like a baked or fried pancake and it's filled with that cream. It's a tradition."

Other items hungry families look for during the holiday are Shatila's ice cream, baklava and knafeh, which is shredded dough topped with sugary syrup and cheese. 

An open faced version of Katayif pastries, filled with kashta cream, is for sale at Shatila Bakery in Dearborn.

Shatila says that, in general, their ice cream stand and juice bar is a hit with customers because it's house made and they try to do things differently, like offer pressed sugar cane juice and fresh oranges and carrots. 

"We like to carry things that let us stand out," she said. The 28-year-old middle sister said at first it was "hectic" trying to keep things running smoothly after the 2013 death of her father, but she's in it for the long haul. 

"We're very proud to be able to be open so long and serve our community," she said. We're hoping for another 40 years ...or 100 years!"

Customers line up to order pastries at the Shatila Bakery in Dearborn.

Hot doggin' in the streets

Tanya Shatila said besides her bakery, many young people hit the hookah bar patios along Warren avenue when its time to break the day's fast during Ramadan. 

Another outdoor assembly spot is the Dog House hot dog cart. 

For the past several years Sal Sarhan has been popping up during the month of Ramadan at 10450 W. Warren in Dearborn. 

The Dog House food cart sets up in Dearborn for late-night eating during Ramadan.

Sarhan is expecting long lines for his inventive hot dogs, including the volcano dog, which is topped with nacho cheese, jalapenos and hot Cheetos. That's sure to be a wake up for anyone's taste buds. He also has a Chicago-style dog, a coney dog and is sometimes joined by other food-slingers like the local ice cream truck. 

The halal hot dog stand is only open midnight to 4 a.m. during Ramadan. Sarhan and his food trailer are also available for bookings and sometimes pops up at festivals. Keep up with him on Instagram at @thedoghousehalal or at facebook.com/ThedoghouseHalal. 

Community Iftar dinner in Hamtramck

Later this month the American Muslim Political Action Committee is hosting an Ifter dinner in Hamtramck to not only give moral support to those who are struggling (which is part of the reason Muslims fast during Ramandan), but also to open up a dialog with the community. 

Somewhat of a “meet your Muslim neighbors” event, the May 19 gathering features a dinner of Bangladeshi biryani, a rice and chicken dish flavored with spices and herbs. 

AMPAC chair MD Alam said they’ve invited local and state politicians, professors, religious leaders and members of the media to join in the conversation, but anyone who is interested in sitting down for an Ifter dinner is welcome. 

"We want to welcome the community together to offer a relationship ... this is who we are," he said. "We want to show that a community is here, we are in need to partner, we are not a threat, we are not a villain."

RSVP for the free evening event at ampacusa.org.


Twitter: @melodybaetens