A new restaurant has “popped up” in the Beirut neighborhood of Mar Mikhael: it’s called the "Junkyard," and it’s anything but a backyard mess. Owned by Chef Tomas Reger, executive chef of Le Sushi bar in Achrafieh, and Mario Jr. Haddad, the restaurant is a play on the pop-up shop concept: a short-term venture with a frugal aesthetic.
Pop-up shops have been turning up more and more in Beirut over the last two years, but integrating the idea with food and an environmentally-friendly design makes the Junkyard a first of its kind in Lebanon.
Much of the Junkyard’s décor is built around recycled materials. A washing machine dotted with light bulbs hangs on the ceiling. Half a ship anchor attached with fluorescent lights sits suspended just above the bar. Even a small toaster oven has been given a second chance at life, serving as a tray for business cards. Grass and sand cover the ground where yellow, green and beige-colored couches surround the bright, canary yellow kitchen, which takes center stage in the outdoor restaurant.
Haddad and Reger had already had plans in place to use the alleyway space where the restaurant currently resides, but while being forced to tediously wait around for building permits to get approved, the duo decided to get creative and experiment with what they already had.
“We didn’t want to buy or spend [too much money] on anything,” Haddad told Beirut.com, “and so literally everything is recycled. You don’t really need to design anything to make it work.” A lot of the decorative materials for the restaurant were found through friends who willingly donated their “junk.” The owners found other pieces at local thrift stores, antique shops and flea markets.
“The intention was to have fun with it,” said Haddad, adding that he wants people to appreciate “the enjoyment of the imperfection. Think of this place as an organized mess […] It is that spontaneity that I […] hope people will like.”
The menu at the Junkyard changes daily, depending on the fresh produce and other ingredients available at the market. The dishes that were served on Beirut.com’s visit to the restaurant included pasta arabiata, chicken with braised lentils, goat meat with a special sauce and salmon with puréed pees. The chicken, goat and salmon were cooked to perfection. Although the staff is very friendly, the service was a bit slow. It did not, however, make the experience any less enjoyable. The food, the people and the mood all work harmoniously together to deliver a unique experience.
As a short-term concept, the Junkyard is set to close on October 31. Although the design is based on recycled materials, it cost a little over $80,000 to launch the project. For a restaurant that already has its closing date set, the return on investment may be difficult to attain. However, Haddad is optimistic: “We’re doing well so far. Hopefully I’ll continue.”
Beirut.com asked Haddad if he would consider a more permanent home for the restaurant in the future. “I don’t know” he said, “if we still have fun with it, maybe. But now that this has been developed, it strikes up the ‘me too’ concept effect, meaning now that it has been done, more people will try to imitate the idea, and so it may not be as innovative as when we initially opened the restaurant up. Again though, nothing is for sure.”
A word of caution: although there were fans set up at almost every corner of the Junkyard, given that it is August and the restaurant is outdoors, it still wasn’t enough to keep beads of sweat from rolling down customers’ foreheads. But come September, the temperature will lower, and definitely work in the Junkyard’s favor.
For more information or to find out how to make a reservation, click here.
This article has been edited and condensed from its original version by the Beirut.com editorial staff.