The '4 Winds' bring Mediterranean to the North Shore

The '4 Winds' bring Mediterranean to the North Shore

June 15th, 2011 by Emily Crisman in Community Hixson

Rami Khuri of East Ridge, owner of 4 Winds restaurant in North Chattanooga, offers authentic Mediterranean fare made using recipes in his family for more than 80 years. Hookahs for use on the restaurant's outdoor patios add to the Middle Eastern ambiance. Photo by Emily Crisman

In Greek mythology, it was believed the four winds - North, South, East and West - were responsible for a meeting between two people.

Rami Khuri, Greek Orthodox owner of the recently reopened Four Winds in North Chattanooga, chose to adopt the name for his restaurant to reflect the divine influence he feels is behind its existence.

He opened 4 Winds on April 11 of this year, nearly a decade after his arrival in Chattanooga.

Originally from Nazareth, Khuri's first flight into the country was set to land in Chicago September 11, 2001. He switched his flight to the following week with a new destination of Atlanta, where the winds directed him to ground transportation of Hartsfield International and a person with a car heading for East Ridge.

With only a backpack and little funds, there he met a Middle Easterner who gave him a place to stay until he found a job. Khuri, who continues to live in East Ridge, was set on following his dream to open a restaurant and started looking at possible locations downtown as soon as he saved enough money.

The winds took him to the owners of Mercantino, who were vacating their Italian restaurant on the North Shore.

Khuri felt he had found the ideal space, and he developed a following of regulars in his two weeks there before the winds again intervened in the form of tornadoes on April 27. He was forced to close the restaurant for a week when he lost power following the storms, costing him $8,000.

"We basically lost everything," said Khuri. "It was like opening a new business again."

He overhauled the restaurant's original menu, which included a much larger selection of foods from across the Mediterranean region. The menu now contains mostly Middle Eastern fare, as Khuri said these dishes were what nearly 100 percent his customers had been ordering.

"We had to adjust to the market," he said. He kept some Greek and Italian dishes on the menu, including soups, salads, paninis and desserts. "We still have a lot of variety for people who want something new, and we're still working on the menu."

All food is made fresh to order, mostly from scratch using fresh ingredients. Hummus, baba ghanouj and tahini sauce are made in-house with spices imported from the Middle East, and the restaurant also makes its own pickles.

Anything that comes from outside, such as the pita bread, is then spiced up a bit for a unique and authentic Middle Eastern taste.

"The response to the pita bread is phenomenal," said Khuri, who gets the bread from an old-time bakery he found in Nashville, then adds olive oil and garlic salt.

He said the specialties at 4 Winds are the hummus and stuffed falafel, made using secret recipes in his family more than 80 years old.

The 4 Winds signature drink, the Limonana, is a refreshing concoction of fresh-squeezed lemon and mint.

While wine is not currently available at the restaurant, customers may bring their own with no added corking fee.

The Middle Eastern atmosphere is made complete with hookahs for use on the outdoor patios as well as belly-dancing nights Khuri is in the process of organizing.

4 Winds is at 417 Frazier Ave., Ste. 104, and can be reached at 265-1000.