Shrimp Falafel And The American Dream

A food truck as a nightclub? Could this be the American Dream?

There’s a lot of bad (and just plain weird) news that comes out of California, so I was pleasantly surprised when I clicked on this article last week and found an inspiring story coming out of Oakland.

Elsayed Elhamak, an Egyptian immigrant, opened a food truck with his brother-in-law Mamdoho specializing in a unique dish that his mother created. He saw a niche in the market when he realized that club-goers were hungry when they left the bar, so he decided to open his truck at night only—keeping the lights on until 3am. He invested in some speakers and pumped the unique sound of Egyptian pop into the streets. Voila! Instant dance party/falafel feast.

The brothers-in-law, who separately immigrated from Egypt to the Bay Area in the 1990s, pump the infectious beats of Egyptian pop outside the truck to lure customers in — and it works. Impromptu dance parties are a common sight as hungry Oaklanders line up across the street from the Fox Theater for shawarma. The truck even has its own YouTube channel featuring footage of some of the wildest falafel-fueled nights.

Elsayed and Mamdoho are exactly the kind of immigrants that make America great. They’ve brought some of the best parts of their culture and found a way to give them to the rest of us in a way that is mutually beneficial. Oklanders are eating shrimp falafel and dancing to Egyptian pop and the brothers-in-law are building a business and achieving financial success for themselves and their families.

“This is the music I love most in my life,” Elhamaki explained. “It’s not like a classic music, it’s more shaabi music […] They’re not acting really professional when they’re singing, they’re just singing with their soul.”

Shaabi, which means “of the people,” is a form of popular working-class music that originated in Cairo in the 1970s. Popular artists include Hamo Bika and Oka Wi Ortega. You’d be hard-pressed to find it playing anywhere else in Oakland, according to Elhamaki.

“I have the signature with this music here in town,” he said.

And while most visiting the food truck don’t understand the lyrics, the language of a good beat is universal. “Even old men, old women… if they’re not dancing, they’re just moving their head, they’re moving their body. At least they’re moving something, and that’s what I’m looking for,” he said.

Bringing people of all races, ethnicities and walks of life together over good food and good music is good business in any language. Our Tuttle Twins books put a pretty heavy focus on entrepreneurship and preserving the freedom of people to conduct business in a way that brings the most value to themselves and their customers. We even have an entire book dedicated to food truck freedom! Maybe I should send a copy to Elsayed and Mamdoho?

Stories like this inspire me to keep spreading the messages of freedom and liberty and entrepreneurship. It’s a great example for our children—a testament to creativity and hard work.  I love when people set out to create something of value that betters their lives and the lives of the people they serve—and totally kill it! That’s what this is all about.

If any of you have occasion to visit Oakland, I hope you stop by Shrimp Falafel Mix and send me a picture and a review! For now, I’m thinking shawarma is on the menu for lunch in the office today… with shaabi music playing in the background… 😉

— Connor

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