In the comments section of my recent post on the closing of Cost Plus, a reader asked if I’d ever been to Phoenicia. My reply was that it’s like a second home; a definite favorite in the sprawling Houston grocery store/supermarket scene.
Phoenicia Specialty Foods (or, just Phoencia, for short) began its life as a small deli / market on the wide, fierce river of pavement that is Westheimer, way out here in the boonies of West Houston. I remember stopping by there for shawarmas and pita bread during high school and relaxing on their small patio on warm days, watching the Westheimer traffic flow by.
These days, the Phoenicia empire has relocated across the road to a store that is roughly the size of an airplane hangar. Inside, the shelves on the right-hand side of the store reach all the way to the two-story tall ceiling, piled high with enormous bags of lentils and tins of eggplant and jars of curry and boxes of fruit-flavored tobacco. The left-hand of the store beckons you with a butcher, olive bar, bakery, cheese shop, fresh produce section and tables to sit at and people watch as you idly munch on hummus and fresh pita bread.
Phoenicia stocks much, much more than just Middle Eastern food these days. They also have a brilliant selection of European and Latin American foods, especially from the Eastern European countries. And as such, your fellow shoppers in Phoenicia resemble nothing so much as a miniature United Nations convention. It’s a vivacious and cheerful crowd, and the different languages spoken drift throughout the store like music.
The butcher shop inside Phoenicia stocks some of the freshest meat in town. Very reputable opinions other than my own hold that there is no better place to buy fresh lamb, which is hard to come by in most stores. And if you’re looking to be a huge hit at your next party, grab a tray of their baklava and bring that to your hosts. Additionally, their wine section is stocked with wines that I’ve rarely seen in Houston, including many Eastern European and Russian wines that I’ve only encountered in one other store (the excellent Moscow Market on Dairy Ashford).
The original Phoenicia Deli is still located across the street, at Westheimer and Kirkwood, as a reminder to never forget one’s roots. Go and grab a bite to eat there, and then trek across the road to visit the big sister. It’s best not to visit on an empty stomach anyway.
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