Picture yourself on a ship tossed by a punishing nor’easter off the coast of Nova Scotia in 1973, and you’ll be picturing Tarek Koste’s first look at the east coast of Canada. And while it wasn’t exactly like the Mediterranean shores he’d known as a boy, Halifax still managed to stir the imagination of the young seafarer. By the time his ship was towed into the harbour to repair the storm’s damage, Tarek had decided to make Canada his home. For Tarek, Halifax was almost perfect. All it lacked was the savoury and spice of the cuisine Tarek knew from his youth. He missed the taste those traditional family recipes he grew up on. Ones influenced by Middle Eastern and Mediterranean culture: bright and full of flavour. He began cooking in the kitchens of Halifax restaurants including famed Italian hotspot La Scala. It wasn’t until he went into business for himself that he truly began to make his dream to bring the tastes of his childhood to his new home a delectable reality.
Tarek and his wife Karen opened Tarek’s Café in 1999, and many of the original staff – and repeat customers – are still loyal to this family owned and operated business. Why? It might be the amazing menu of classic Lebanese and Greek comfort staples like shawarma and souvlaki alongside Canadian diner-style favourites. It might be Tarek’s delicious soup, which he’s been giving free to customers by the gallon every day for over a decade. Or it might be that it’s just the kind of place once discovered, becomes a little bit like home.