Dining With Denise Neil

This Wichita restaurant is long gone, but now the owner is sharing most of its recipes

Ilham Saad misses her restaurant — Byblos, which she ran until 2016 at 3088 W. 13th Street.

She misses her customers. She misses cooking.

But now, she’s found a way to reconnect with the life she misses and make her former customers happy at the same time.

Saad, who opened Byblos in 1989 with her late husband, Kamal, was known for her lemony hummus, her tangy tabouli and her superior shawarma. She’s just published a cookbook called “Cooking with Inspiration: Lebanese Cuisine” that includes most of her most popular recipes from the restaurant, which she sold to Rania Taha and Bashar Mahanweh two years ago. (The space is now the home base for food truck Gaga’s Grub and where owner Dustin Presley puts on private dinners.)

She printed the book herself, and now she’s working on getting it out around town.

“After I closed Byblos, so many people said, ‘I don’t know what you did to us. You closed Byblos and now I can’t find any good, healthy food,’” she said.

The all-color book, which is printed in hardback and includes lots of photos, is available on Saad’s website, cookingwithinspiration.com. A hardcover version costs $35, or a down-loadable PDF version is $21.95.

Saad said she wrote the book for her customers, but she also did it for her family — particularly her 12 (almost 13) grandchildren. The younger generation, she said, needs to learn how to eat good food.

She had a big collection of recipes, but they were mostly in her handwriting, which only she can really read. She decided she wanted to “put them in the computer” and turn them into a book her family could always keep.

“My grandkids tell me, ‘I can’t believe that you did this for us,’” she said.

Saad said that the feedback she’s received so far has been positive and people tell her that the book is easy to read and the recipes are simple to follow.

Her customers always quiz her about what’s in it. They’ll rattle off their favorite dish from when Saad had the restaurant and say they’ll buy it if it has that recipe.

“It does” is almost always Saad’s answer.

Saad is working on getting the book in stores around town, and she’ll be selling it from a booth at the annual Women’s Fair in February (along with some of her signature spices.)

In the meantime, those who want a book can contact her through her website.

If you’re not making your own hummus yet, you need to start. Now. It’s so easy and SO much better than anything you can buy. (Star-Telegram/Max Faulkner)

Denise Neil has covered restaurants and entertainment since 1997. Her Dining with Denise Facebook page is the go-to place for diners to get information about local restaurants. She’s a regular judge at local food competitions and speaks to groups all over Wichita about dining.