KENNEWICK -- Next time a recipe calls for rose water, date syrup or baba ghanoush (roasted eggplant) head for Halal Market in Kennewick.
The specialty grocery store stocks a variety of imported Mediterranean foods.
"Our customers are mainly Middle Eastern, but Russians, Bosnians, Lebanese and Africans come here too," said store manager David Shay of Kennewick.
A good portion of his customers have no connection with Mediterranean cultures except an appreciation for the cuisine.
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Anyone who's lived in larger cities -- San Diego, Seattle, Portland -- likely has enjoyed eating at ethnic restaurants and cooking the foods at home too.
"So really our customers come from pretty much every culture," he said.
Halal Market has been open for about 18 months but until moving into a former laundromat at 504 N. Fruitland St. in Kennewick, it was one of the Tri-Cities' best kept secrets.
The former location, on West Entiat Avenue in Kennewick, "was hidden behind the pawn shops. Very few people knew we were there," Shay said. "This store is bigger and in a better location."
The market is owned by Al Duvalinni of Beaverton, Ore. He has friends in the Tri-Cities and knew there was a large ethnic population here, so he decided to capitalize on it.
Three months ago, when the former manager quit, Shay moved with his family from Beaverton to manage the market. Originally from Iraq, he's familiar with the foods and can share recipes and cooking tips with customers.
Once a week Duvalinni makes the trip to Kennewick, bringing more stock including fresh cheeses, tamarind and dates for baking and cartons of a yogurt drink.
"A lot of people think it's milk, but it's yogurt," Shay said, explaining that the red-topped containers are plain, the green flavored with mint.
Duvalinni also brings fresh bread, both pita and lavash, which are big sheets of flatbread loved by Persians. He also restocks the frozen meat case with goat, beef, lamb and chicken plus meat for gyros, baby okra and phyllo dough.
All the meat is halal, an Islamic term for lawful or permitted.
"Which means it was butchered in a certain way," Shay said. In fact everything in the store is halal, hence the name.
"People used to have to drive to Seattle or Portland to stock up on these foods. But now they save money because they don't have to drive as far and maybe take a day off work," Shay said.
The market is open from 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. daily.
For more information, call 509-586-6817.
-- Loretto J. Hulse: 509-582-1513; email@example.com