Everett Mall corn kiosk grew from a kernel of an idea

Corn in a cup.

Not on the cob. In a paper cup with a plastic spoon.

That’s the menu at Tamara Corn, a kiosk in the Everett Mall food court that opened on April 1.

It only sells corn. No fooling.

No peas. No carrots. No beans.

Corn.

It’s a novelty here, but an Iraqi family is changing that, one cup of corn at a time. They hope to soon open a second corn stand in Alderwood mall.

“In our country, and Middle East countries, all the malls they have this system,” corn-trepreneur Wafaa Jabbar said. “When I came here I ask, ‘Where is the corn?’ They say, ‘Never have corn here.’ I say, ‘Why?’ ”

It is a tradition in many cultures. McDonald’s restaurants in Hong Kong and Singapore sell cups of corn. Mexican corn cups with mayonnaise are popular. For some reason, Americans have kept it on the cob for snacks.

That’s what this is. A snack. A 12-ounce cup is $3.50, tax included.

Wafaa and her husband, Amer Albaytari, named the corn stand after their 18-year-old daughter Tamara Albaytari.

The family moved to Everett a year ago. They fled Iraq 15 years ago and lived in Qatar before coming here so Tamara and her twin brother, Tamar, could get an American college education.

“We left everything there looking for a future for them,” Wafaa said. “I was a physical education teacher. My husband was a professional volleyball coach.” Before that, he played on the Iraqi national volleyball team.

The couple’s academic certificates didn’t transfer here. They never dreamed corn would be their pot of gold.

“We used to make this at home,” Tamara said. “A friend of ours came to our house and we said, ‘Try this snack.’ He tried it. He said, ‘Why don’t you open a business like that?’ And we’re like, ‘Oh, that’s not going to work. No way.’ Then we started to think about it seriously, why not?”

This was bold move in this land of choices aplenty. They set up shop in a vendor cart in the middle of the food court within steps from 31 flavors of ice cream and a dozen pizza topping options.

Diners at the corn kiosk have two corn choices: Spicy or not spicy.

There are two pressure steamers, a jar of butter, some seasonings and a small freezer with bags of frozen corn. Bright signs with smiling corn ears are the main clue of what’s inside those pots.

Still, it takes some explaining.

“People asked me, ‘What is this, just corn?’ ” Wafaa said.

“We did a lot of samples,” Tamara said. “When they try it they go, ‘We need this.’ ”

From the steamer, the kernels are mixed in a bowl with white cheese, yellow cheese, lemon juice, garlic, butter, salt and pepper.

Some customers try it at home.

“They say, ‘We can’t do it like you,’” Wafaa said. “They say, ‘We make it, but it’s not delicious like yours.’ I say, ‘A secret.’ ”

That’s right. Just like the chicken colonel, there’s an undisclosed ingredient.

Kyle Ventler, a mall worker at a vape kiosk, is hooked.

“It’s a nice simple treat that satisfies your sweet craving and fills you up,” he said. “It has a very unique flavor to it. I hadn’t seen anything like it. I love corn. I’ve had very good corn on the cob, but it doesn’t compare with this.”

The corn kiosk led to another venture for the family. They recently opened another food court restaurant, Babylon Mediterranean, with a wide menu of choices such as kebab, falafel, hummus, shawarma, rice and gyros.

No corn. You gotta go to the corn stand for that.

Send What’s Up With That? suggestions to Andrea Brown at 425-339-3443; abrown@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @reporterbrown. Read more What’s Up With That? at www.heraldnet.com/whatsup.

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