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Jan 20, 2009 08:35 PM

Jaffa versus Petra Cafe, San Luis Obispo

I've been a fan of Jaffa Cafe in SLO for years. One of the long time employees and his son announced last year that they were taking over the vacant space next door to Jaffa to open a mediterranean style pizza shop. It sounded like a great compliment to the food at Jaffa.

So their new place, Petra Cafe, just opened a few weeks ago and I couldn't wait to try it. I was a bit shocked to see the menu. Indeed they do have pizza, but also practically duplicated the entire menu of Jaffa. This is odd since they are right next door to one another. Petra is serving the same gyros, lamb and chicken shawarma, and falafel in either plates or sandwiches.

So hubby and I decided to do a taste comparison and ordered a lamb shawarma plate and chicken shawarma sandwich. Petra has some nice touches such as beer on tap and they make homemade pita bread to order. When we walked in the owner gave us a sample of hot bread to try while we checked out the menu.

The bread did stand out over Jaffa's. Otherwise we both agreed that we preferred Jaffa for their hummus that is creamier and with a nicer garlic flavor, as well as for their delicious lemony tabboulleh salad.

The table next to us had a Greek Feta pizza and added gyro meat to it. It did look good and they said it tasted just as good as it looked.

A co-worker was walking out of Jaffa yesterday and said the owner of Petra came out after her in the parking lot and gave her a menu and said "take this for next time." It seems that a strange competition has started. As for us, we'll stick with Jaffa.

Petra Pizza and Grill
1210 Higuera St, San Luis Obispo, CA

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  1. there is a Petra in Tehachapi, (really good!) relocated from San Francisco. I wonder if it is a family thing? Anybody ask any nosey questions, (if not, I'm first in line) about where the proprietors are from? Seems wierd to open up next door and then try to "steal" a competitior's customers. SOOOOOoooo un-SLO-like. Will try to find out more info.

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          1. Petra seems to be a more complete Arabic restaurant. The chicken Schwarma melted in my mouth. I also like the family vibe of Petra. Jaffa is good but i would rather have the mom and pops that are from the middle east making my food instead of someone from the Americas. Open until 12 at night? I might as well start my Friday and Saturday nights off at Petra with food and beer.

            I was a consistent Jaffa customer, but Petra just seems more homely and innovative (the pizzas are unbelievable)

            5 Replies
            1. re: upppps

              The owner of Jaffa Cafe is from the Middle East. He's from Israel. See

              1. re: rteeter

                Yes, Jaffa's owner Adnan is Middle Eastern, as was his now deceased partner Mike. The recipes at Jaffa came from Mike, who I believe was Lebanese. Adnan's staff are always friendly and make us feel at home.

                I'm all for a small family operation succeeding, but Petra's business tactics are questionable at best.

                1. re: PattyOh

                  Gee upppps, you wouldn't be one of the questionable owners of Petra would you, because if you were a "consistent" Jaffa customer you would have known Adnan and where he was from as well as Mike. Adnan and staff are the friendliest around. Adnan will frequently come to your table and chat or sit down with regulars. As far as the rest of the staff, they are responsive and welcoming and hustle to get you your meal. If you have questions, they are appear glad to answer them, even when they are busy.

                  1. re: Carl_Hubbell

                    I was unaware of the "issue" of the two restaurants when I found Petra online, while searching for a unique place to take my 8 yr old and her cousin after a reptile show. We loved the owner at Petras- friendly and helpful. The fresh pita was delicious!! I enjoyed my meal very much- the kids shared a pizza and they gave it just an okay.

                    I really loved the devil sauce, the hummus, the everything on my combo plate!

                    I understood the owner of Petra was from Jordan. When my daughter and her cousin asked where the downstairs "went", he promptly closed the register- and escorted us downstairs to see...the soda boxes and storage area- the girls loved the special "tour" of the underground, the bins of flour- and the free t-shirt he gave them both.

                    I would love to try Jaffa- but they'll have to work hard to win me over after the food and friendliness of Petras!

                    1. re: OldJalamaMama

                      We have been going to both Jaffa and Petra for years. Well, Jaffa for years, Petra since they opened. We just went to Petra a couple of weeks ago.

                      You can't tell the players without a program:
                      Jaffa is the old (original) one.
                      Petra is the new one (next door).

                      The first post in this thread is old, but it's still relevant.

                      > I was a bit shocked to see the menu.
                      > Petra is serving _the same_ gyros, lamb and chicken shawarma, and falafel
                      > in either plates or sandwiches.

                      OK, let me explain. Here's the way it works.

                      In Mediterranean restaurants they serve -- ready for this? --
                      gyros, lamb, and chicken. And, yes, falafels.
                      You can get them on plates or in sandwiches.

                      It's the same everywhere!
                      It doesn't matter if they're next door to one another or not.
                      Or across town. Or in another city.
                      You can always get gyros, lamb, chicken, and falafels.
                      No shocker there.

                      I am ambivalent about the Jaffa vs Petra controversy.

                      On the one hand, I get upset when $tarbucks opens across the street from a nice neighborhood coffe shop and kills it. But perhaps that's a poor analogy. $tarbucks is a huge national corporation. Petra is a family run place. And they certainly haven't put Jaffa out of business. Both places seem to be doing a good business.

                      We've always liked Jaffa (the old place). But they always irritated the daylights out of me due to their short days and hours. Closed on Sundays, short hours on all the other six days. Hey, if it's 9:00 p.m. and I've got a hankerin' for gyros, I want some!

                      Enter Petra.
                      Days: 7 days.
                      Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

                      Jaffa -- obviously reluctantly, since they didn't do it before -- responded by opening on Sunday and extending their hours on all the other days.

                      I'll bet that Jaffa is making more money than they ever have, not only due to the extended hours, but also due to the increased traffic caused by Petra. Shopping centers (it's a real stretch to call this little strip building a shopping center, but you get the point) thrive when there is lots of traffic in and out. And now there is.

                      So what's the difference between these two places? First, I'll say that we like the food at both places. A pretty good summary would be that Jaffa is old school. No disrespect intended whatsoever. I like old style restaurants, especially Italian, steak, and seafood. Let's call Jaffa traditional.

                      Petra is new school, new and different. They make their own pita. This is a real stroke of genius. You smell fresh bread baking when you walk in the door. And to top it off, they also use it to make pizzas! And they sell beer! So, as you would imagine, LOTS of students go there. We've never had a pizza, but they look good.

                      The real winners are the customers. You can now get gyros and falafels seven days a week and late into the night.