In this article, the B profiled two of those restaurants and their owners: Mediterranean Kebab and Caffe Stellato. (Arda Inegol)
In this article, the B profiled two of those restaurants and their owners: Mediterranean Kebab and Caffe Stellato.

Arda Inegol

Small businesses on Burlingame Avenue are here to stay

May 22, 2023

Burlingame Avenue is infamous for being home to trendy storefronts, popular chains and luxury brands. However, there is a small but substantial number of small, independent restaurants that have withstood the test of time — many of which are minority-owned and minority-run. Below, the B profiled two of those restaurants and their owners — Mediterranean Kebab and Caffe Stellato.

Mediterranean Kebab


Ana Lunaparra

Mediterranean Kebab owner Ismail Emek works from early in the morning to late at night every weekday.

While the restaurant turnover on Burlingame Avenue is notoriously high — with storefronts changing every few months — Mediterranean Kebab is here to stay.

“I love Burlingame,” owner Ismail Emek said. “I used to work in places around Burlingame and I know many local people. When this location [became available], my cousin and I saw that there were opportunities to start our business, so we decided to get the place.”

Before starting his own restaurant, Emek worked in the hospitality business. He then opened the Mediterranean Kebab in 2005, which has remained a successful mainstay in Burlingame for the past 18 years.

“The best part of my job is the people,” Emek said. “Interacting with people, sharing their story, my story, talking about the daily stuff, that’s what makes me happy.” 

As the owner, Emek insists on being the first to enter and the last to leave the restaurant every day.

“I have to wake up early and open the restaurant before all my employees, because I really want to be here first in the morning,” Emek said. “Then I prepare catering orders to deliver them, then come back and deal with lunch. At night, I am the last person to leave the place. Basically, [that is] my life [for] like five days — open and close.”

Despite the long days, Emek is extremely grateful for the opportunities and happiness his job has brought him. 

“I love what I’m doing when coming here, talking with people, the key parts of being a business owner,” Emek said. “If you love what you’re doing, you will be successful. I love my place and I know my business, and then success comes after.”

Caffe Stellato


Ellie Neuman

Restaurant owner Malik Zughayar stands inside his Cafe in the middle of a busy work day.

Caffe Stellato isn’t just an Italian gelato parlor, a candy store, a sandwich shop or a coffee spot — it’s all of that, and more. But none of that happens without the man behind the multi-faceted new locale on  Burlingame Avenue, owner Malik Zughayar. He often starts his work days at 6 a.m., making preparations to open the restaurant.

“I have to go to buy the produce and get the bread from San Francisco, and [get back] between eight and nine,” Zughayar said. “Prepare [the restaurant] before the opening, and then open and wait for the people to come.”

Hard work pays off, as Zughayar and the rest of the chefs and employees are rewarded with lines piling up on Saturday nights with people anxiously awaiting a scoop of one of the 42 flavors of creamy, homemade Italian gelato, locally made by an Italian chef with 40 years of experience.

Located on Burlingame Avenue near the train station, the authentic cafe and deli also serves a wide variety of food. The cheese and meat in their sandwiches are sourced from Italy, and they know how to cater to their local audience (one of their specialty sandwiches is called the “BHS special”, which includes a selection of one choice of meat and one choice of cheese).  

“I want [customers] to be happy all the time,” Zughayar said. “Happy from whatever they buy from here — gelato, food or candy — we want to make them happy.”

Along with their menu, the ambiance of Caffe Stellato does not fail to please customers. The walls are painted with gelato and candy, and customers are greeted with colorfully decorated menus, emulating a little Italy. 

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About the Contributors
Photo of Ellie Neuman
Ellie Neuman, Staff Reporter

Ellie Neuman is a Senior at Burlingame High School, and a first-year journalism student. With a lifelong passion for animals, she has always strived towards...

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Ana Lunaparra, Staff Reporter

Ana Lunaparra is a first-year journalism student and a senior at Burlingame High School. In her free time, she enjoys painting, baking, and playing tennis....

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Arda Inegol, Business Manager

Arda Inegol is a senior at Burlingame High School and a third-year Journalism student. As the business manager, he is tasked with managing the B's...

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