CATSKILL — The owners of Mediterranean Bistro — known popularly as 394 — are leaving their Main Street location and joining forces with a Greenville restaurant.
Chef Salah Alygad will be teaming up with Mountain View Brasserie Chef Max Suhner. The two will be working together for the first time in 17 years since their stint at the Freehold Country Inn.
Alygad, an Egyptian immigrant who opened his first restaurant just three years after coming to the United States in 1977 has worked his way up though the ranks, Mediterranean Bistro Manager Denise McCarroll said.
“It’s definitely his passion, he came up through the ranks,” she said. “When he first came to this country he was a dishwasher, then a line cook and then he went to school and became a chef.”
Alygad met Suhner while cooking for the United Nations in New York City, McCarroll said, adding that she too worked there at the time.
As Suhner took his career upstate, Alygad followed and the two worked together at the Freehold Country Inn from 2000 to 2004, McCarroll said.
McCarroll and Alygad together opened their first restaurant, Friends & Family Hillside Restaurant, in Accord, which they operated for 14 years before coming to Catskill, McCarroll said. Alygad had previously owned a couple of businesses in Kearney, New Jersey.
Mountain View Brasserie owner Valbon Nishefci thinks the team will be a good fit, he said.
“Salah and Max have worked together before so they complement each other very well,” he said. “I’m excited to have those two back here to create something special.”
When former Brasserie owners Ben and Terry Buel moved from the Freehold Country Inn to the Brassiere, Suhner went with them and has worked at the eatery for the past decade, Nishefci said.
Nishefci purchased the Brasserie from the Buels at the beginning of the pandemic, he said.
“It was a crazy time to enter a business,” he said. “Most businesses were closing down and we were just opening and starting a new business — that’s not an easy task by any means. In this business, this is what you do. You adapt and override.”
Nishefci is no stranger to the industry.
He grew up in his family restaurant in Kosovo before he immigrated to the United States in 2009.
Nishefci has been exposed to many different cultures, he said.
“I worked for the UN as a translator so I traveled a lot and I’ve been exposed to a lot of different cuisines, a lot of different foods,” he said.
Closing their chapter in Catskill after three years is bittersweet, McCarroll said.
“We’re very appreciative of the people in Catskill,” she said. “It’s kind of bittersweet leaving because we’ve made friends here but we’re not that far away so everybody can come visit us.”
The bistro will be closing May 15 and Alygad and McCarroll will be starting at the Brasserie around Memorial Day.
It is unclear what type of business will move in to the bistro’s location.
“I know that Gil [Bagnell] has had people looking,” McCarroll said. “I’m not sure what’s coming. He’s got something up his sleeve.”
Bagnell owns the building that contains the Mediterranean Bistro at 394 Main St. He said the management team of Alygad and McCarroll are leaving but the business will remain open. He also confirmed that he is talking to other people about operating the restaurant.
Bagnell plans to take a week to deep-clean the establishment and may close the doors for a short time, but only for the management transition. He added that 394 Main St. will remain in business.
Other up-and-coming restaurants in Catskill include Penny’s Diner on West Bridge Street, which will be going through a rebranding and reopening as Goodies in June; and Artis Southern Cuisine & Steakhouse of Schenectady, which will be opening a second location in June at the former Tatiana’s.
This story was updated at 5:30 p.m. May 6.