Between its extensive comic book and gaming selection, Omar’s World of Comics & Pixel Paradise in Lexington Center was already an idyllic hangout spot for many students.
But the Masood family behind the local institution has given community members one more reason to stop by and linger: With the opening of Omar’s Bistro in late October, the business now offers a variety of menu items made from scratch, from Texas BBQ to Middle Eastern fare. On a dreary Friday in November, LexObserver sampled some of those new offerings firsthand amidst the cheerful blue and yellow walls of the restaurant.
Omar’s World of Comics and Pixel Paradise are both labors of love. Omar Masood, who has Down syndrome, opened his comic book store in 2018 after graduating from the LABBB special education collaborative. A lifelong superhero fanatic, he totes a massive Marvel Encyclopedia with a well-worn spine, which he uses to acquaint people he meets with their superhero personas (for example, Omar assigned LexObserver’s reporter the superhero persona of mutant Jean Grey, who evidently can “alter reality, then create a new reality.”)
In every facet of the business – from the comic book store to Pixel Paradise to the new bistro – Omar and his family have put inclusivity front and center. The blue and yellow walls of Omar’s represent the colors of Down syndrome, as does the extra chromosome woven into the Omar’s logo. The business tackles that mission both by encouraging customers with all abilities to game and enjoy comics together, and by creating fun, meaningful opportunities for the LABBB graduates it employs.
“This place was not about making money,” Mona Masood, Omar’s mother, said. “I’m still putting money in!” (Omar’s father, Sohail Masood, is a highly successful serial entrepreneur in healthcare.)
In order to expand Omar’s, the Masoods bought the building currently housing the business two years ago, proactively making an offer though it was not for sale. They moved in last fall after significant renovations. “Owning the building is a plus,” Mona said.
Omar’s older sister, Laila Masood, has been a passionate gamer since age three, leading her to take advantage of the new space and open Pixel Paradise upstairs last year. Since the building already had a kitchen, the move created a natural opportunity to open the bistro, too. But it took the Masoods roughly another year to renovate the kitchen and find their chef, Clifton Gill.
Henry Neill Jones, Laila’s husband, hails from Austin, Texas, and praised Gill’s authentic fried chicken and brisket. “I haven’t had this quality food since I moved up to Mass,” he said, adding that Gill lived in Austin for several years.
At Omar’s, “the burger is definitely my pride and joy, my baby,” Gill said.
LexObserver sampled the “Storm Crow,” or richly flavored buttermilk-brined crispy chicken on a homemade brioche bun with hand-cut fries, as well as generously caramelized bread pudding for dessert. Mona insisted LexObserver also take her personal favorite dish, the falafel bowl, to go.
Gill has now expanded the menu with further vegetarian options like avocado eggrolls, a chipotle rancher, a goat-a-cado – a burger with avocado substituting the burger patty – and new flatbreads. On the dessert front, hand-rolled donuts are now on offer as well.
Since the bistro opened, business has “been really steady,” Laila said. “Thankfully the people were already our regular customers…have all been very open and amenable to trying the food, and they love it.”
“They don’t come with the intention to eat; they come to play,” Jones added. “But then when they see the food they’re like, ‘I want one.’”
Some of the customers who were in the shop bore out that observation. Andreas, 14, is homeschooled. He comes to Pixel Paradise at least once a week, and enjoys gaming with friends. His bistro pick so far? The pizza. “I’ve gotten it, like, three times already,” he said.
According to James, an eighth grader at Diamond, Omar’s is “kind of fire.” James has been coming to Pixel Paradise “every day” since he discovered it a couple months ago; he’s such a regular he has a special nickname at Omar’s – “Zesty,” partly because of the way he walks. While he had not yet tried the bistro food, he planned to order the pizza later that day.
Laila credits Omar’s success to the “supportive community and…we have the soul behind Omar and the mission.” She anticipates further expansions in the future.
Following the model of Omar’s World of Comics and Pixel Paradise, Omar’s Bistro will create additional work opportunities for students in the LABBB program in the new year. Another program director for students with autism has reached out about collaborating with Omar’s as well, Jones said.
“For a lot of the kids in the LABBB program, they go to, like, the post office or fill envelopes or do jobs that are more menial,” Laila said. Omar and the Masoods want these students to have other options – job opportunities that are more fulfilling and fun.
Tucker Adam Kenderson, a LABBB graduate, first began working at Pixel Paradise thanks to an internship he got last winter. “Gotta say, best job I’ve ever had,” he said, crediting the business’ unique sense of community.
For students, especially around the middle school age, this is a community spot, too. “We have kids that come here all the time to make friends,” Jones said.
“Gamers usually don’t meet people because they’re at home playing games,” Laila said. But here, “I’ve seen them growing together.”