PANAMA CITY BEACH — You might have seen some activity recently at the Green Parrot, which has changed hands in its first month of business.
“All that’s the same is the name,” said owner Hani Tarhini, who has traded “a taste of Latin America” for his native Mediterranean cuisine.
He also is leaving the green walls, polka dot valance and covered chairs at the eight four-top tables, and the former owner of the Green Parrot has left him with his pink Parrot Sauce recipe for the wings.
The building is the former home of HogNose Snapper, which got its start there a year ago before recently moving to a larger location in the former home of Karma Mediterranean Restaurant & Lounge down the street. Liza’s Kitchen, now in Mirabella Square, also started out at 7008 Thomas Drive before expanding.
Tarhini’s Mediterranean restaurant had been open for one week when I caught up with him Tuesday. When I walked in, he was talking on the phone to his mother, Feryal Elsebae, who he still consults when preparing family recipes.
“Back home is similar to here with the beach,” said Tarhini, who first moved from Lebanon to Tennessee in 1994, before relocating here a few years ago.
His family is still in Lebanon, but Tarhini, who owned Hani’s Lunchbox and ran a cafeteria in Jackson, Tenn., looks to recreate a taste of home.
“I wish my mom was here,” he said. “I do everything; all the cooking.”
Tarhini, who said he learned to cook in the Lebanese army, sends his mother pictures of the food he creates for the Green Parrot.
“She’s so proud and says, ‘that looks good,’ ” Tarhini said, noting he hopes to bring his mother to the beach for the first time this summer.
Behind the counter, under the bowls of oranges, bananas and camel statues, are packages of Sultan Maamoul Date Filled Cookies, often served for the holidays, and biscuits.
“The biscuits are homemade,” Tarhini said. “A woman from Iraq brings those to me.”
The most popular item has been the Lebanese version of the Greek Gyro, the beef Shawarma sandwich. The beef is heated and served in pita bread with parsley salad — parsley, yellow onion and sumac — hummus, grilled tomato and Tahini sauce.
“So far, everyone is liking the Shawarma. It’s a very good sandwich,” Tarhini said.
Andrea Goodman, waitress and cashier, said she prefers the Chicken Shawarma with the Mediterranean Slaw — cabbage, mayonnaise and corn sprinkled with dry mint.
“That is the best I ever ate,” said Goodman, who also has discovered a new favorite spice: sumac.
Seafood also is on the menu, but with a Mediterranean twist. The Grilled Salmon entrée is served on rice with Tahini Sauce and two sides, such Baba-Ganouj and Hummus with pita bread. Baba-Ganouj is baked, mashed eggplant mixed with sesame sauce, lemon and garlic.
“The only thing that makes it different from hummus is the eggplant,” Tarhini said.
Baba-Ganouj also is topped with pomegranate and is less smooth.
“We like to design our food, our table,” said Tarhini, who sprinkles his dishes with extra spices and garnishes with fresh sprigs of parsley. “Most of the food has cilantro, garlic and olive oil in it. You can eat a lot of it because it’s not too heavy.”
Tarhini also has kept a few menu items from his Lunchbox menu and brush with Southern cooking, including burgers and the Fried Chicken Sandwich. Green Parrot serves hot tea and bottled sodas, and the coffee machine and fountain drinks should be installed by next Friday.
What: Mediterranean cuisine, sandwiches, burgers
Where: 7008 Thomas Drive, Panama City Beach
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily
Details: (850) 249-7170