UPD Mediterranean Cuisine at 430 Vine St. is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday. See the menu, order and pay online at UPDmenu.net.
Akram Musa scored 99 out of 100 Monday on his first day back at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's campus.
That was the near-perfect health inspection score for Musa's new restaurant at the corner of Vine and Houston streets, UPD Mediterranean Cuisine, which is the latest incarnation of University Pizza & Deli, a campus institution Musa founded in 1997.
University Pizza & Deli went on hiatus almost three years ago, because Musa sold the restaurant's building at 422 Vine St., so it could be knocked down to make way for a new student apartment building, The Edge.
"I sold the building based on one condition: To save a spot for me as a restaurant," Musa said.
So the restaurant reopened Monday on The Edge's ground floor. The 50-seat space has framed art on the walls of Musa's hometown, Jerusalem, booths upholstered in UTC's navy-and-"old gold" colors, and a menu that features pizza, calzones and Mediterranean specialties such as falafel, gyros and babaganoush.
"I'm looking forward to coming back many times," said UTC employee Linda Gehron as she shared a table Tuesday with two other UTC employees: Susan Long and Allison Stone. "[Akram's] great. He's so friendly, and he seems to really have a love for the university."
Musa looks forward to the opening of UTC's new, 600-bed dormitory under construction on the corner across the street.
While pizza and college students go together, Musa doesn't sell beer.
"No alcohol. It's against my religion," said Musa, whose menus advertise that the restaurant's meats are halal, or adhere to Islamic law. There are health benefits to Mediterranean food, Musa said, and the lifestyle — including Ramadan, the Muslim practice of fasting during daylight for a month.
"Less heart attacks. The food, and the religion, has something to do with it," said Musa, who looks younger than his 58 years. He played professional soccer in the late 1970s, and only gave up the sport about four years ago.
Musa lives in Tunnel Hill, Ga., and has five children who range in age from a daughter who attends UTC to a son in sixth grade at Ringgold's Tiger Creek Elementary School.
"They're all straight A's," Musa said of his children.
While he waited for construction to finish on his new restaurant space, Musa sold seafood at the Costco warehouse store in Fort Oglethorpe.
"I broke a record in sales," Musa said. "I'm a talker. I can sell ice cream to an Eskimo man."
Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at email@example.com or www.facebook.com/MeetsForBusiness or Twitter @meetfor business or 423-757-6651.