Oriental Bakery Keeps It All in the Family

Amaya and Soha
Amaya and Soha

Here at New Times, we've always been big fans of Oriental Bakery & Grocery and its freshly baked pita, falafel, and other Middle Eastern specialties. So we decided it was time to find out who is behind these mouthwatering treats.

We make our way along the sidewalk, shaded by fig trees, and enter a market full of vibrant colors and the aroma of spices and fresh-baked pita. We're instantly greeted by Amaya, a vivacious young girl who's enjoying her summer vacation helping in her grandfather's store. "I made pita today!" she shouts.

Her grandfather, Okashah Abdelmonem, smiles and tells us it's her birthday, so she's in rare form.

This family ambiance and good quality is what has kept customers coming back for the past 38 years. Okashah opened the store in February 1972. Canned, frozen, fresh -- all things Middle Eastern are here. There's even a section for traditional housewares such as coffee pots, rugs, and hookahs.

These days Okashah's daughter, Soha, makes sure things are running smoothly as she replenishes baked goods and sweets behind the counter.  "We are in the middle of Ramadan so we are very busy." The market's business has expanded tremendously in the last few years products are shipped to customers in South America and across the U.S. Soha, who does all the cooking, comes in 7 days a week to prepare fresh pita, kibby, kataif and shibiyat. There's also a full service deli with falafels, kebabs, couscous and daily specials. All made by Soha.

We stock up on breads, olives, feta, bakhlava and --- just when we think we're done -- Amaya hands us a dried fig.   "These are my favorite. I plant the seeds outside".  Figs, fresh and dried are traditional for Ramadan. The fig is sweet like candy with just the right chewy interior and slightly crisp skin. As we walk back to our car past Amaya's fig trees, we smile and hope we'll see many more trees in the years to come.

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