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Bring On the Bounty: A 120-Year-Old Brooklyn Specialty Shop Is Booming

by Christine Sahadi Whelan

Bring On the Bounty: A 120-Year-Old Brooklyn Specialty Shop Is Booming

Bulk bin delights. Photo by Jamie Sumague / courtesy of Sahadi's.

On Brooklyn's Atlantic Avenue, an unassuming-looking Middle Eastern specialty store called Sahadi's has been winning the hearts and minds of locals, visitors, and travelers for well over a century. With a new award (2017 James Beard Foundation America's Classic), a spiffy new website, and national delivery service, they're sure to lock in the next generation of fans, too. We asked co-owner Christine Sahadi Welen to point out some of her favorite pantry items. Get ready for bulk ordering.

BROOKLYN – Sahadi's is an iconic New York grocer. With bins of fine grains and exquisite spices, over 200 bulk bins of freshly roasted nuts, dried fruits, and imported olives, old-fashioned barrels of coffee beans and a simple ticket dispenser — this is an old-world place that still offers new tastes. The fridge case stocks specialty cheeses from around the world, smoked fish, pâtés, and more. The deli and bakery has hummus, tabbouleh, kibbeh, kebabs: Around 30 dishes are prepared daily and change seasonally.

Originally from Lebanon, my family first established Sahadi's in Manhattan in 1895. My grandfather, Wade Sahadi, moved the shop to Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn in 1948, and his son Charlie took over in 1967. Charlie gave the place to my brother, Ron, and I, and we run the shop today. We launched a new website, making it easier for anyone in the contiguous 48 states to order prepared foods and groceries right to their door. Here's a little taste of world flavors by way of Brooklyn.

 

Sun Lion Harissa

Inspired by the famous Moroccan harissa pastes prevalent in every souk in the Middle East, this locally made harissa is custom blended for us. A thick and richly spiced red pepper sauce, it's low in sugar and mildly spicy. It's wonderful as a table condiment and also terrific as a marinade or dipping sauce. We've packaged it in a convenient squeeze bottle — because once you try it, you'll want a squeeze of it on everything! ($7)

Sahadi Aleppo Pepper

We are especially proud of our Aleppo pepper. Traditionally grown in Aleppo, Syria, the recent crisis there has made it impossible to source consistently. The last few years have been very hard on Syrian agriculture. Many Syrian families fled just over the border into Turkey, and they took their very valuable seeds with them. After testing dozens of samples for taste, texture, color and grind, we finally found our sweet spot with our current supplier and crop. Vivid in color, and spicy but not too hot, this red pepper has a slightly smoky taste. I was lucky enough to secure a few seeds myself, so I am going to grow my own at home this year. We have never seen fresh Aleppo peppers in person! I'm sure they won't compare to the ones actually grown in Aleppo. ($4.50)

Zejd Infused Olive Oils

This is a brand new product and exclusive to us. You can't buy this anywhere else in the country! These infused olive oils are small-batch and pressed from the Mediterranean Souri, an olive named after the Phoenician trading port in southern Lebanon. They're cultivated in the Akkar region and produce a fruity extra virgin olive that is carefully cold-pressed and then infused with Mediterranean flavors. The staff favorite is the smoked olive oil, although my favorite is the pomegranate infusion. (Coming soon: for now, add to waitlist.)

Roasted Salted Almonds

Our Persian-inspired almonds are our best-selling item online — and with good reason. We have a proprietary house roast, and we roast for freshness every 1-3 days in our Sunset Park facility. Crunchy and toasty to the core, you won't find a fresher or more delicious almond anywhere. I have a lot of travel coming up, and I always keep a bag of these with me for snacking on the go. ($8 for 16 oz.)

Artisan Granola

Our Mediterranean-inspired granolas are chopped by hand and mixed and baked right in our store on Atlantic Avenue. All the ingredients come from our shop, so they're of the highest quality. This savory blend evokes the flavors of the Middle East. We use all-natural sweeteners like pure date syrup, carob syrup, and pure pomegranate molasses (never refined sugars). Extra virgin Lebanese olive oil, as well as pure Lebanese tahini (sesame paste) contribute to both its flavor and its addictively crunchy texture. It's hand-packed daily. We started off making this once a week or so, but now our staff comes in extra early to get this on the shelves. Customers love it. ($8 for 12 oz.)

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Christine runs her family's third-generation specialty grocery (along with her brother, Ron Sahadi). You can follow her at @sahadis on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. She travels to taste and source new products from all over the world.

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