Born in small village near Zahlé, Lebanon, in 1932, Chafik Chamoun arrived in the Mississippi Delta with his wife, Louise, in 1954. The newlyweds came to Clarksdale, following in the footsteps of Chafik’s grandfather, who had arrived in the Delta decades earlier.
Chafik worked a variety of jobs to make ends meet, but, like many Lebanese immigrants before him, including his grandfather, he spent years peddling dry goods to tenant families. He eventually earned enough to open a small grocery store out on Friars Point Road in Clarksdale, where Louise often made him lunch: a kibbe patty wrapped in homemade Lebanese bread. Customers began asking about Louise’s “kibbe sandwich,” and soon, picnic tables dotted the parking lot, and Louise was serving traditional Lebanese foods to the people of Clarksdale.
In 1990 Chafik’s cousins, who had operated Rest Haven Restaurant since the 1940s, retired. Chafik and Louise purchased the Rest Haven, added their name to the sign out front, and have been serving Lebanese, American, and Italian favorites to loyal customers ever since.
Date of interview:
August 16, 2010