Upon walking through the doors of Ayla Mediterranean Restaurant, it was easy to sense what the establishment was all about. For an eatery serving traditional Lebanese cuisine using recipes passed down from generation to generation, Ayla, meaning “family,” accurately describes the restaurant, both in food and accommodating service.
Located in the Hiller’s Market Plaza at the corner of 14 Mile Road and Haggerty in Commerce Township, Ayla is owned by Adnan and Executive Chef Ahmad (AJ) Janbieh. When we sat down with the restaurateurs, their vision for the Ayla was clear: To serve fresh, quality food using tried-and-true recipes while treating guests like family.
While the word Mediterranean adorns Ayla’s logo, the restaurant’s cuisine has a traditional Lebanese focus. This is not surprising, considering the Janbieh family’s roots are in Lebanon. Staying true to family recipes from the old country contributes to the authenticity of the food and restaurant as a whole.
After a chat to learn about how Ayla came to be, Chef AJ brought us huge family-style plates that could’ve fed a party of more than 10 people. It’s an old school way of serving a meal, encouraging guests to share dishes and stories to make dining an experience.
Our culinary journey began with a fresh and delicious Fattoush Salad. It might have been the best we’ve ever had. The crispy pita chips, fresh greens, large chunks of fresh tomato, and excellent dressing worked in harmony to create a euphoric salad bite.
Ayla’s homemade Hummus was next to tantalize our palettes. Smooth and balanced, it will make you wonder why you ever bought the mass-produced stuff from the grocery store. Paired with warm pita bread, it made us forget that there was more food to sample.
A bountiful entrée greeted us next, featuring chicken seasoned with a traditional blend of spices and grilled so perfectly that it melted in our mouths. Just when we thought we couldn’t eat another morsel, Chef AJ brought us incredibly tasty smoothies made with fresh strawberry, banana, honey, and guava.
The food quality at Ayla is noticeable. Adnan points out that their produce is sourced from Eastern Market in Detroit and their bread is from Cinderella’s Bakery in Dearborn. While they currently buy their bread from a local bakery, they plan to build their own bread oven in the future, plus add a dedicated juice bar.
Bringing mouth-watering dishes using local ingredients to the masses hasn’t always been easy.
In 2013, Ayla opened in Westland, but was forced to close later that year in July after a fire. The Janbieh family was undeterred and, nine months later, Ayla reopened in its current location. A fresh start means new opportunities to serve guests from Commerce to Walled Lake, Novi, and beyond.
The family at Ayla is optimistic and looks forward to the future in their new location. Whatever the future holds, you can be sure you’ll be welcome with open arms (and full plates).
Ayla Mediterranean Restaurant is located at 39650 W. 14 Mile Rd. in Commerce Township, Michigan. Dine in, carry out, and delivery services are available. For more information, please visit aylamichigan.com.