Mehdi Boujrada’s flourishing Villa Jerada brings the best of authentic Morocco to Seattle

Classic Casablanca comes to Seattle, thanks to a Moroccan native.

MOROCCO HAS GREAT surfing, according to Mehdi Boujrada. He was born in Casablanca, and when he was a teenager, he’d head out to the coast around Agadir to join “people from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, France — I mean, you name it.” The December swell was like “a Mecca every year.”

Boujrada would cadge some money off his parents for the weekend, catch a bus for around $8, rent a place in a fishing village with five or so friends for $10 each, “and eat for like $1 a meal … calamari, a few sardines, some whitefish, bread, Moroccan salad, Coca-Cola for like $1.20.” He marvels at the simple deliciousness of it now: “unbelievable.”

Even in Morocco, surfing culture meant, to some degree, American culture, and Boujrada loved the United States from afar. “Michael Jordan, music, whatever — I was always obsessed,” he says. He had two half-brothers living in Seattle, and in 2000, when he was 18, he came with his dad to check it out. A couple years later — after having his passport held for a month by the U.S. Consulate “for some hard-core screening” — he was granted a visa.

Boujrada started out here as a busboy at his half-brother’s Belltown Italian restaurant, La Vita è Bella (now under different ownership). He worked; he met his wife; life happened. But he wanted to share the spices and condiments of Morocco since the beginning. “I always felt like our culture and food was poorly represented,” he says. When you know what it is, at its best, he opines, “and you see what people are doing, you’re like, ‘Oh my God, this is not right.’ ”

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