Tucked behind a mosque and hidden in the maze of twisting streets behind Al Muroor Street is a quaint burger joint with a sign that reads “Khaleeji drive thru.” Cars pull up and families spill out into the small building stands alone in the middle of the parking lot. Children and adults are equally anxious to get a bite of Grand Central’s hit burgers.
Grand Central opened in 2011 when two best friends, Saam from the United States and Suhail from the UAE, decided to open a burger joint in the Emirates based on their experiences in New York City. Instead of bringing another franchise like Shake Shack or Five Guys, they wanted to open a restaurant that is unique and caters to the tastes of Abu Dhabi residents.
Grand Central has U.S. American-style burgers, fries, shakes and hot dogs. The newest addition on their menu is the UAE’s original cheese steak, the first cheese steak in the Emirates. Along with excellent quality food, the staff is chatty and fun and explained their diverse backgrounds — coming from Zimbabwe, South Africa and the Philippines.
“We [the staff] are family,” explained waitress Maryam Alexander. “We live together, the guys and the girls in neighboring apartments.”
The Grand Central family extends to include many regular customers including NYU Abu Dhabi freshman Abdullah Al Khazaal, who has been frequenting the burger joint since it flipped its first patty. Al Khazaal and Alexander know each other quite well.
“He comes here a lot,” said Alexander, laughing at Al Khazaal’s second visit of the day.
What makes Grand Central stand out is the tasty burger with great beef and an absence of the typical overwhelming greasiness of fast food. Along with beef burgers, Grand Central also offers chicken and veggie burgers.
“I come here when I want a burger and I don’t want to feel guilty,” said Al Khazaal.
The outdoor patio, decorated with the UAE national colors – red, green, black and white – is beautiful in the late November breeze. Al Khazaal and his friends usually come at night, when many Emiratis congregate to grab milkshakes and fries. During Ramadan, the spot is filled with students up until 1 a.m.
“My friends say they have the best milkshake in the world,” said Al Khazaal. The Grand Central favorite, cookies and cream, is thick and creamy — the perfect, albeit unhealthy, dessert.
Grand Central has three locations including the original location off Al Muroor Street: one in Dalma Mall and one in Al Ain. On their website
, students can order takeout; however, waiter Donald Matshoba thinks people should come to the restaurant itself.
“Yakhi [Arabic slang for bro], this is where it’s at,” he said.
From Sama Tower, take a cab toward the Mubadala offices off of Al Muroor Street by the Al Mamoora complex. At the intersection of Al Muroor Street (4th Street) and Mohamed Bin Khalifa Street (15th Street) turn right into the superblock. In the center of the superblock behind a mosque is the little restaurant. For those with iPhones, the coordinates are 24.464289, 54.386234.
Nicole Lopez del Carril is a staff writer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.