The Prince of North Arlington
By Office of Communication
Posted on November 26, 2012, November 26, 2012

In 2009, the lunch crowd at Prince Lebanese Grill, 502 West Randol Mill Rd, just east of Cooper Street, was beginning to pick up."We serve authentic Lebanese food, cooked the same way my mom cooked it. Most of my recipes are originally mom's cooking,' said Francis Kobty, the owner.

Mom's recipes and a friendly atmosphere might have been enough to make Prince a successful new restaurant, but things went viral, when Guy Fieri, the spiky-haired host of the Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, profiled the restaurant and called Francis,"The Prince of North Arlington.'

"Absolutely crazy,' said Francis."The business exploded.'

Prince Lebanese Grill, which opened in 2007, is a converted fast-food drive-in that still has the covered walkway and diagonal parking, but everything else has changed."Our looks didn't appeal to everybody in the beginning,' said Francis."It took courage for customers to walk in.'

"There were times I would be the only one in here,' said Paul Pappas, an original customer, who works at nearby Arlington Camera."It was like a ghost town. Now during lunch, it's so packed, I come a little later. You can't beat the food and the friendly service.'

"We have good, healthy food, a clean place, and a family atmosphere,' said Francis Kobty, the owner. Francis, who also owns a construction company, redid the entire façade, expanded the dining room, built an outdoor patio, added a festive flower garden, and put up a red, white, and blue sign.

"Some people pull up just to look at the flowers,' said Francis."Next, thing, they'll be taking wedding pictures, which is fine by me. That's why they call this the Land of Opportunity.'

Francis, a Christian Arab, who grew up in Nazareth, Israel and his wife Amira, moved to Arlington more than 30 years ago. Back in the 1960's, Amira's father translated Arabic to English for the Rev. Billy Graham when the evangelist visited Israel. Amira, a former substitute teacher at AISD, is known as the Baklava Lady."I use real butter and make it fresh every day,' she said."It's not so sweet that it hurts your teeth, like some Baklava. I make it crunchy.'

Francis and Amira raised 4 children in Arlington, three of whom are in college. All of the children have worked in dad's restaurant. Francis, who also has two brothers and a sister here, said,"Arlington is awesome.'

At first everybody was against him opening the restaurant, but he did it anyway.

"When we first opened everybody said,"this is going to sink you,'' said Francis, who had owned another restaurant named Prince in Arlington back in the 1990's."But I got encouragement from customers. Now, we have people coming in from Dallas, Fort Worth, Mansfield, Joshua, Burleson, Richardson, Allen, everywhere. We are very blessed.' Francis is a hands-on owner who personally buys top-of-the-line ingredients used to make the items on his menu.

"A lot of Texans have never in their life had Lebanese food,' said Francis."Take lamb, for example. In the beginning, nobody would order lamb. Now, I sell more lamb than anyone in Texas.'

"Healthy food really brings people in,' he said."Only the Falafel is fried. Salads must be fresh and crunchy. Everything is grilled over an open flame. We have an open kitchen, so you can see what we do. Nothing is ready until you come in to order. We start everything from scratch.'

Francis runs a tight ship, but he stays loose moving from table to table often sitting down with his regular customers to talk and drink coffee."You see the same faces,' said Francis.

"One time I almost had a heart attack; there were like six or seven police cars here and I thought we got robbed or something,' said Francis."When I walked in, they were all sitting there eating and laughing.'

Everybody who comes in gets excellent treatment."This is my passion,' said Francis."I love being around people. I come here to spend time with friends and family.'

For a look at their menu, please visit www.princelebanesegrill.com. Like the Prince on Facebook at www.facebook.com/PrinceLebaneseGril

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