Exploring ethnic markets: Mediterranean Food Imports
What's in store
Fans of falafel and lovers of hummus will discover they've hit the Middle Eastern mother lode in this deeply stocked shop no bigger than a bodega. Think Ali Baba's cave, only the treasures - apart from some hookahs sparkling in the front window - are edible.
Related to other same-named markets (there's a Hilliard outlet and a semi-famous brother north of campus), this MFI does its own butchering, baking and sandwich-making (arguably the best - and cheapest - shawarmas in town). So while it sells a wide array of pita (including whole wheaters), the best loaves are baked-here beauties.
Expect to inspect lanes of enticing spices, olive oils, killer labneh balls (tangy yogurt cheese), stuffed grape leaves in a can (better than you'd think; you can also buy materials to roll your own), cases of candies and baklava-style pastries (head for the homemade), and jars of makdous (stuffed and pickled baby eggplants - an amazing snack). In the rear, you'll see whole lambs and goats hanging and waiting to be broken down Halal-style, as well as a case holding homemade (and ready-for-grilling) kefta kebabs, spicy sausages (e.g. sujuk) and lots more.
· Tahini (sesame paste): A key ingredient in hummus and baba ghanouj and, when thinned out with lemon juice and/or yogurt and water, is great on all kinds of salads, sandwiches, etc.; its varieties here rival peanut butters in Kroger.
· Spicy Lebanese olives ($4/pound) + creamy French feta ($7/pound): Really impressive - and so easy! - as a last-minute party purchase.
· Homemade "zatar bread" ($2): Aromatic and addictive zatar (a versatile herb, spice and sesame seed mixture also sold by the pound) crusted onto puffy, baked-here flatbread.
· Namoura (Lebanese semolina cake with nuts, syrup and coconut; a $7 portion serves about six): Bypass the packaged stuff and grab the made-here, sometimes-warm, but always wonderful dessert.
· "Extra" or "Super Extra" nut mix ($9; brands vary): These dry-roasted Lebanese babies are the best.
· Ziyad brand baba ghanouj in a can ($2): Believe it! You'll fool your friends with this smoky, tangy, rich, all natural and surprisingly delicious stuff.
Actually, MFI's lavishly loaded, fresh, juicy, really lamb-y and really fantastic shawarmas ($6) are only sold to go - along with other kickin' kabob sandwiches, falafel and various, expected Middle Eastern favorites.
Mediterranean Food Imports
5215 Godown Rd. (just off Bethel Rd.), Northwest Side