Not only is Jerusalem Market, in the Courtyard Shops on Plymouth, the only Middle Eastern grocery on the north side, but it’s just a few blocks away from Ann Arbor’s only mosque. For all its location-location-location, in the last several years it’s had a neglected look to it. New owner Mohamad Mahbi bought it from the courtly and gracious Shaban Abdel Jabar a few months ago, and hopes to turn it around; Mahbi also owns Ypsilanti’s Sahara Market.
A newcomer to Ann Arbor, Mahbi moved here from Tampa about a year ago to marry a local woman, Khadija Hassan. Mahbi’s family own the Holy City pita bakery in Tampa, and as soon as he gets the groceries at Jerusalem Market whipped into shape, he’s going to take it in the direction he knows best, by putting in an oven (either here or in the Ypsi store) and selling fresh pita and mana’eesh. Mana’eesh is the collective noun for those focaccia-like pies, topped with spices, meat, or cheese. And he’s also entertaining the possibility of a name change for either or both markets, though like the former owner, Mahbi’s family are Palestinians from Jerusalem, so he’s not unhappy with the current moniker.
Mahbi says he has expanded the produce section and dropped prices. To draw in some traffic from North Campus, he’s offering students a 10 percent discount on everything except meat, which he already likes to sell at close to break-even prices. A bread man, he’s still learning the meat and cheese trade, and confesses he can’t really taste the difference between his high-priced French feta and the lower-priced contenders. And with that, butcher Jason Delauder comes flying out of the back room to rescue him from his gaffe.
“French is way smoother. Then you got your domestic or Bulgarian–a little tangier and has a little more zip to it,” says Delauder. Delauder is not just a meat cutter–he’ll prep and cook it if you give him half a chance. He points to his kofta, which he sells for $3.79 a pound: “half lamb, half beef, ground up, and spiced with onion, garlic, parsley. You can make kebabs, fingers, burgers. We’ll also make hamburgers out of ground meat, and spice them up. Almost anything, we can spice it up, or even cook it. I’ll cut up chicken, put it in a red sauce with paprika, garlic.”
“Yes,” adds Mahbi, “if you want it spiced up, prepped up, whatever. We can help women. You can take it home to your husband and say, ‘Look! I cooked this!'”
Jerusalem Market, 1713 Plymouth Rd, 668-7773. Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-8 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.-6 p.m.