Now the residents of Baghdad can sink their teeth into chili-cheese dogs and buckets of crispy chicken fries along with that they can drink their favorite milkshakes. All these are available both in the original and extra spicy variants.
American style restaurants are spreading all over the capital of Iraq like a wave and they are also encouraging to try both alternative and traditional foods such as the lamb kebabs or fire roasted carp.
This new wave is a sign that Iraqis, who has been suffering from daily violence for a long time and from the bombings and shootings that happen almost regularly, are now ready to experience the simple pleasures of life like a slice of their favorite pizza.
Instead of the multinational food chains, it is the band of Iraqi entrepreneurs and investors from the neighboring countries are bringing these delicacies to the people of Baghdad. These people take Iraq to be the potential market that is flooding with experimental eaters as a market with low competition and high returns.
Osama al-Ani a government employee, while munching on a pizza at a jam-packed new restaurant states that people are bored with the traditional foods and that is why they are eager to try something new.
Among the new places that have opened in Baghdad, Chili House is quite famous. It is a sit-down restaurant and provides a menu comprising of foods like Caesar salads and hot wings apart from the all American platters like three-way chili, Philly cheesesteaks and the ‘Big Mouth Chizzila’ burger which weights around half a pound.
An afternoon not long ago, saw the uniformed waiters navigating through the two story dining room packed with extended families and teenagers in large groups, while the toddlers and kids were seen playing in the indoor play area.
This restaurant is connected with the only branch of Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken, the famous US chain of restaurant that serves only a few Midwestern and Southern states. This restaurant is situated in a neighborhood known as Jadiriyah.
Managing director of the Kurdistan Bridge (which has brought these new restaurants to Iraq), Azad al-Hadad states that, he and the other investors has decided to open restaurants because of the fact that there weren’t any place which could have served fried chickens or burgers in Iraq. According to him, the companies which are getting into this market early; have a chance to reap most profit. He is planning to open a lot more branches of the restaurant in the coming 6 months.
He has added that people like to eat well and wear well; these are the two things that bring people together. He also said that people tell them that they fell like not being in Baghdad at all and there is always this feeling of satisfaction for them.
Green zone of Baghdad and the US military bases once opened American fast food chains like Pizza hut, Subway, Burger King and such, but all these places were shut down as soon as the US troops went back to their country. The main reason behind that was the fact that most of these outlets were hidden behind many checkpoints and heavily controlled facilities, so most of the Iraqis were never been able to go near them.
According to Christopher Fuller, the spokesman for Yum Brands Inc, the company that owns brands like Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and the KFC chains, has confirmed that this company is not planning to go back to Iraq, at least for the time being. Burger king has denied commenting on this topic and Subway was not available for comments.
Dining out is not at all risk free in Iraq, because places like restaurants, cafes and ice-cream parlors were among the targets of a recent attack happened on 16th august and that attack claimed the life of at least 90 people.
According to the common Iraqis a chance to be able to enjoy a meal at a clean place is worth the risk, because these restaurants are the symbols of progress.
Wameed Fawzi, a chemical engineer who was enjoying his fried chicken strips at Lees along with his wife Samara stated that these dining outs and foods creates a sense that the country is getting back to the right track once again.
Mansour district of Baghdad is now the heart of this fast food frenzy.
During the peak of sectarian fights in 2006 and 2007, finding a shop open in this neighborhood was quite tough, because the militants used to target shop owners to fulfill their campaign to undermine the attempts of the government in restoring normalcy once again.
Nowadays, these roads and area can be seen parked with cars and the long running and popular Arabian restaurants are forced to compete with the foreign sounding names and their products like Florida Fried Chicken, Burger Friends, Mr. Potato and Pizza Boat and many such.
There is almost a KFC rip off called KFG and its owner Zaid Sadiq says it stands for Kentucky Family Group. He has said that the name is picked somehow consciously because he wanted his restaurant to sound similar to this world famous food chain serving fried chicken. He also boasts that his chickens taste equally tasty.
He also added that he hopes, in future, his restaurant will be as famous as the KFC.
One of the latest additions to this frenzy at Mansour is the Burger joint. This is a slick shop that serves delicious burger and milkshakes along with the soundtracks that includes the likes of Frank Sinatra. It is a part of the VQ Investment Group which operates both in Iraq and United Arab Emirates.