Hummus Alert

Ali Baba Dallas restaurant empire marches north with new branch of Terra

Ali Baba Dallas restaurant empire marches north with opening of Terra

Terra Mediterranean Grill lamb chops
Terra Mediterranean Grill will open a branch in Plano. Terra Mediterranean Grill/Facebook

Local diners know of Ali Baba, one of Dallas' original Middle Eastern restaurants that once served Mediterranean-Lebanese fare and a big lunch buffet on Greenville Avenue. One branch currently remains, in Richardson.

But its big brother, Terra Mediterranean Grill, is expanding, and a new branch will open at the Shops At Willow Bend in Plano. A spokeswoman confirms that the restaurant will open in the fall.

Owners Adam and Jalal Chanaa opened the first Terra in Fort Worth's West 7th district in 2010 as a fancier alternative to Ali Baba. It was the first time the brothers built from scratch rather than inheriting an existing space, and they designed Terra to have a more elegant decor, serious bar, and expansive patio with an enviable perch overlooking 7th Street.

The Plano location will boast the same swagger. It'll open in the new restaurant arena being built in what was formerly Saks. Willow Bend is receiving a serious makeover, joining the current trend of transitioning into a dining and entertainment destination and de-emphasizing the traditional shopping experience.

Terra's menu includes middle Eastern classics like gyros, hummus, and grape leaves (which can be ordered with lamb or in vegetarian form) as well as entrées such as whole branzino with arugula salad, grilled sea bass, and saffron chicken. It does a cool twist on a burger made with ground lamb, and it has a large assortment of small plates such as calamari and feta cheese with olives.

Terra is one of a collection of restaurants slated to open in the space, along with Flippin' Pizza and another branch of Knife, the steakhouse concept from Top Chef John Tesar.

Terra also has a second branch in Irving, at 114 and MacArthur Boulevard, in what is actually a former Ali Baba that changed its name. The brothers have shown an ability to go with the flow. In 2012, they tried a more casual wraps concept called Grip, and in 2009, they opened a branch of Ali Baba in Lakewood. They closed that in 2014 when the lunch crowd did not materialize and the parking proved to be a pain.

The renovation of Willow Bend includes an interior remodel, plus the addition of a center for the arts, up to eight restaurants, an open-air plaza, and a seven-story office tower.