At home, George Merhej loved to cook good food for those closest to him. In fact, his cooking was so good that, before long, his well-fed family and friends began encouraging him to share his talents with the community. So, in 1992, Merhej got into the restaurant business.
His establishment, Green Olive, was made to retain the same character of those home-cooked meals for his family. Everyone in the Merhej family pitched in, working together to make Green Olive flourish. With a new business open every day, they essentially relocated their home environment to the restaurant. George’s wife and his mother-in-law help with the cooking, just like when he cooked for them at home.
Merhej’s specialty, available on Tuesdays and Sundays only, is the kibbe nayeh, a traditional dish that’s a bit like steak tartare, made of very lean meat from a leg of lamb, with all tendons and fat removed, finely minced with onions, fresh herbs, and salt. Guests hoping to sample this Mediterranean delicacy should know that it’s only available on Tuesdays and Sundays, and, in keeping a healthy balance with home life, the restaurant closes nightly at 8:00 pm.
The walls at Green Olive are adorned with things that are especially important to the Merhej family—photographs and mementos of family, God, and country. Even in his choice of a name for the restaurant, George Merhej pays tribute to his family and its traditions: before other details had been sorted out, he knew that the name of the family business must have the word “olive” in it, honoring the long line of ancestors whose livelihood was in the ancient olive groves in their homeland of Lebanon.
In its great esteem for family and heritage, Merhej’s restaurant reflects some of the best traditions of Acadiana folk cuisine and culture. The menu may offer stuffed grape leaves instead of gumbo, but Green Olive’s kitchen is animated by the same spirit familiar in so many of Lafayette’s small, family-owned restaurants—starting with love of cooking good food for family as its foundation, and the encouragement and support of well-fed family and friends.