When I first started writing about New York food markets for Serious Eats, I asked friends to recommend stores for me to explore. Three-quarters of them answered: Sahadi's. Well, I thought, no need to go there if everyone knows about it. Then, one of those friends brought bags of Sahadi's goodies to the house that we share at the Jersey Shore. I sampled the hummus, which was fantastically creamy and nutty. I bit into a sweetly hot Peppadew pepper. Then, I stuffed the hummus into a Peppadew. I caved. To Sahadi's I went.
Sahadi's first store opened in Manhattan in 1898; they moved to Brooklyn's Atlantic Avenue in 1948. Sahadi's seems to have grown almost organically, feeling as though its charmingly uneven floors actually hold several stores, each with a different specialty—including cheese, coffee, olives, spices, nuts, and prepared foods. The intoxicating scent of coffee floats on the air.
While Sahadi's Lebanese roots are still apparent in its vast selection of Middle Eastern goods, the store also carries specialty goods from just about everywhere, as well as stuff you might see at your corner bodega, like tortilla chips and wasabi peas. The cheese department carries several varieties of feta and wonderfully tangled Armenian string cheese, but there is also blue, Brie, Leyden, and pretty much anything else you might want.
The takeout caused me to do a double take: The first thing I spotted was chicken parm. Okay, I'm from Brooklyn and understand the importance of chicken parm under any and all circumstances, but it was rather a shock to see it sitting cozily next to Middle Eastern lamb, um, meatballs. In tomato sauce. Perhaps not such a strange juxtaposition after all. You'll also find lebany (thick, drained yogurt) pie, spanakopita, quite enormous baked kibbee, and the region's answer to pizza--lamajoun, a spicy lamb-topped flatbread, delicious warm or cold.
Sadly, however, my job is not to nibble (okay, I did eat three flaky mini-spanakopitas on the way to the subway), but to shop and to cook. I had already decided on using Peppadews (their actual brand name is Peppadew Sweet & Spicy Fruits), as Sahadi's carries a particularly succulent (and fillable) line of them. I brought home the house brand of Armenian string cheese with nigella seeds, fresh chevre, black Cerignola olives, and pine nuts, all purchased at Sahadi's, to stuff them. I'd seen recipes for filling Peppadews before, but none involved cooking, just stuffing and serving. Right now, I'm hoping there's not a reason for that.
Note: Sahadi's will be represented at the Lower East Side Pickle Festival (Sunday, September 14).