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Big Apple Bites: Edy's Grocer Brings the Middle East to Brooklyn

During the pandemic, restaurants and food purveyors suffered through store shutdowns and vanished customers. Edy Massih, founder and owner of Edy’s Grocer in the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn, found success.

Born in a fishing village in Lebanon, Massih came to New York nine years ago, launching his own catering company specializing in Lebanese cuisine in 2017. Three years later when the pandemic hit, business came to a halt. That’s when he had an idea.

Out of his home kitchen in Brooklyn, “I began selling ‘quarantine meals,’ which were fresh-made meals, such as Lebanese meatball stew and stuffed eggplant,” said Massih. “I started off making 20-30 meals a week, and then demand grew to 60-80 meals a week.”

With a newfound neighborhood customer base, opening a brick-and-mortar storefront was a natural next move. When the owner of the longtime corner deli on his block decided to retire, Massih jumped at the chance to take over the store. He redid the floors, painted the floor-to-ceiling shelves white, and added homespun touches like a wall of dried flower bouquets and photos behind the counter. In August 2020, Edy’s Grocer was born.

The 600-square-foot shop (500 feet of selling space, plus a 100-foot back kitchen) is split 50-50 between packaged goods and fresh-made options. The packaged offerings in the tidy, welcoming space feel like a culinary mini-tour through the Middle East. Glass jars of spices and staples like chickpea flour, sun-dried bay leaves, couscous, tahini, and several blends of za’atar spices line the shelves. Pistachio milk, sesame crisps, and shakshouka sauce are among the more eclectic finds. All the pantry items are imported from the Middle East, said Massih. The spices, tahini, rosewater, and olive oil are top sellers.

In the kitchen, creative meals and small plates are available all day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and via Doordash, Massih has pickup and delivery as well. The breakfast menu features man’oushe (a popular Lebanese street food composed of crispy flatbread and spices) and a bacon, egg, and cheese pita.

Sandwiches include chicken shawarma, a best seller, and a pita-quesadilla combo with Syrian string cheese, pesto, and tomato jam grilled inside a pita. Tabbouleh salad, za’atar chicken skewers, kafta meatballs, couscous bowls, and a top-selling mezze plate featuring hummus, babaganoush, grape leaves, and halloumi cheese are some of the menu highlights. Food orders are reasonably priced in the $5-$18 range.

Massih is a definite presence in his shop, and he said he’s grateful to operate in such a welcoming neighborhood. His appreciation for the tight-knit feel of Greenpoint shows as he greets customers or sits overlooking the sidewalk at the grocery’s outside benches and tables. (Two tables plus chairs for customers are inside as well.)

Now that Massih has introduced Brooklyn to Lebanese home cooking, he’s hoping to package and sell some of his fresh-made dips and sauces at other outlets. For now, however, he’s focused on expanding the sit-down area of the shop by adding bar stools.

“Opening during the pandemic was work, but the reward has been amazing, and the neighborhood wonderful,” said Massih.

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