The Online Edition of the Annandale High School Newspaper.

The A-Blast

The Online Edition of the Annandale High School Newspaper.

The A-Blast

The Online Edition of the Annandale High School Newspaper.

The A-Blast


Success served to the DMV by Annandale alumni

3:47 AM, 7258 Columbia Pike, Annandale, VA. Two neon green Lamborghinis are parked alongside a brick wall. Nearby, a group of men lounge outside at tables in bright yellow metal chairs, some standing. Across from them, a line snakes outside the same building where they ordered their food. Loud music blasts from the open door. Some call it a restaurant, others call it a cultural landmark. This is Bitez.

Four months after being opened by business partners and AHS alumni Layth Mansour and Hasib Iqbal, Bitez has about 10 new locations in the pipeline. Known for New York style halal eats and crepes, it has become one of the biggest and fast growing DMV food hotspots, drawing in lines of customers out the door until 4:00 AM every night.

“We didn’t have to be open for long. We’re cool with rappers and cool with everybody. It’s as if we’ve been open for years. It’s a blessing,” said Iqbal, Class of 2010.

The idea for Bitez was created by the duo’s main partner, 2006 graduate, six-foot-nine, famed basketball star of AHS, Layth Mansour, on an unsuccessful night out with his friends, Iqba included.

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“One night we were like, man, we want crepes. We wanted something where we could get that late night munchies food. And you could only go to Washington DC for that. So one day we’re like, man, let’s open up a restaurant. And my partners are crazy- when they say something, they do it,” Iqba said. 

The Bitez partners refer to themselves like family, always collaborating and starting new business endeavors together. 

“I’m 31. I’ve known Layth since I was 13. So anything he’s been a part of, like Legend Kicks, his own sneaker store, or anything he’s a part of, we are a part of, with him, like a family,” Iqba said. “The thing about us is we all operate as a cohesive unit. Like when you see us and the homies, as you would say, you don’t know who the boss is, like you don’t know who the owner is. We don’t operate that way.” 


Building foundations

Choosing the first Bitez location in Annandale, VA wasn’t a business move for the Bitez business partners and AHS alumni Layth Mansour and Hasib Iqba, but was a decision to honor the community they grew up in.

“I live right in front of Annandale High School. I was born and raised in the same neighborhood, I went to Annandale. We love it here. Because Big Layth went to Annandale and I went to Annandale we wanted to do something for Annandale High School but also help grow business here,” Iqbal said.

In fact, it was at AHS that he began to cultivate his confidence, which eventually led to his entrepreneurial dreams

“I was like the cool nerd; But I was still cool.” Iqbal said.  “I was like, Hold on. If you have the following of people, like homecoming court, I didn’t win, but the fact that I got voted into homecoming court for me at that age was like a big deal.” 

Through this, he learned a valuable lesson: staying true to one’s self.

“If you go ask any facility or staff or teachers that knew me, I was the loudest, proudest, and you heard me in every hallway, to the point where I still have pictures where teachers had my name on a piece of paper and a circle and there would be a cross on it- like to not come into my classroom.” 

 “Mr. Maglisco used to curse us out all the time. Coach Scott used to curse me out too, but he loves me now,” Iqbal said.

Iqba also attended Poe Middle School, and it was in eighth grade when he was personally invited by head varsity boys basketball coach at the time, Coach Harper, to play on the team during their varsity summer camps as the only eighth grader. 

“I fell in love with Annandale High School from that point on,” Iqba said.

During his time at AHS, Iqbal was frequently featured in The A-Blast, like in an April 2010 issue profile of him and his friends, dubbed “The Goon Squad”. In that article, Iqbal said, “Annandale was bland before we came along. We came, we conquered, and we made AHS fresher in the process. But we can’t stay forever and now it’s time for us to do big things.”

And big things he did do. 


Beyond Annandale

“After high school, I thought I wanted to go to college, I went to college, but I went for all the wrong reasons. I realized, okay, college is not for me. And then I went right into wanting to make money,” Iqbal said.

Iqbal worked in the corporate world for about ten years, managing banks and learning about customer service, sales, and people in general, before he took off with entrepreneurship. He also owns a decor company, a marketing agency, and a three level hookah bar, among other business ventures.

“I keep my hands on a lot of different cookie jars,” he said.

Then came Bitez. Not only has the success of Bitez DMV filled the lives and stomachs of the Annandale community, it’s changed the lives of Bitez business partners indefinitely.

 “[Bitez] changed my life drastically, you go from thinking that you need job security and that you want to give up on yourself to realize that, wow, we could have opened up a restaurant a long time ago. And we would have been in the situation we’re in now, if not better,” Iqbal said. “I still ride my bike here. I used to walk around here as a kid. So for it to be opened here is like it’s very impactful for us. Because we’re all like Annandale natives.” 

The business partners are often seen and known for their large lifestyle filled with sports cars (one of Iqbal’s partners owns a $55 million dealership in Fairfax) and connections with celebrities and rappers. Iqbal’s cousin is signed with multi-Grammy winning Canadian rapper, Drake, and Iqbal himself has been on stage with Drake, and additionally met American rapper and singer, Kevin Gates. Iqbal’s Instagram displays him meeting prominent celebrities and A-listers. But, no matter what, Iqbal always makes his roots and home, in Annandale, known.

“I’m a proud Annandale person. No matter where I go, I’ve made sure every celebrity I know, that I’ve come across, that I’ve sat down with, and that I’ve hung out with, I make sure they know what Annandale is. I’m like, ‘Oh, by the way, I’m from Annandale,’” Iqbal said.



The Bitez’s partners deep roots in the Annandale are clearly reflected through the unique, diverse and unified community that is found in nearly part of Bitez, even behind the counter displays of a collection of the restaurant’s first one-hundred dollar bills which reach from all over the globe. 

“What I loved about Annandale is you have to have a Habesha community, you have that Middle Eastern community, you have the Hispanic community, you have the Asian community, you have the Indian community, you have everyone. So I think going on the different money from different countries shows that we’re open to all walks of life, all ethnicities that we love everybody,” Iqbal said.

In that way, Bitez is a microcosm of Annandale, with a universal sense of belonging and community. This, too, found its way into Iqbal himself, as he reflected on his journey.

“My message to everyone at Annandale is be who you want to be,” said Iqbal. “I haven’t changed since high school. I’ve the same personality. I’m the same person. I still act 15. Like, I don’t care. I haven’t changed a bit and it worked out for me, so it can work out for you.”

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About the Contributors
Emily Hawkins
Emily Hawkins, Co-Editor in Chief
Senior Emily Hawkins is thrilled to be this year's Co-Editor in Chief of The A-Blast. This is her third year in the program and was previous In-Depth Editor and Arts Editor. When she’s not at school she enjoys listening to music, reading, crocheting or hanging out with friends. She hopes to pursue further education in university and to study communications and journalism. She is looking forward to a great last year on staff!
Shane Gomez
Shane Gomez, Co-Editor in Chief

Senior Shane Gomez is the Co-Editor in Chief of the A-Blast. He was Editorials Editor as a sophomore and junior and a Staff Writer as a freshman. He is pursuing the IB Diploma and he can be found frequenting clubs and organizations such as AWC, AYSO, ABC, AA, CFAC, HSC, SHF, MUN, NHS, NEHS, NSSHS, SNHS, VWA, and YMG. He likes to thrift, hangout, and watch movies. He looks forward to graduating.

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