Food & Drink » On the Side

Middle East Market & Deli

Combination grocery-lunch counter serves some of the best shawarma in town.


  • Photo by Rob Bartlett

I have two vivid memories dating back to a trip my family took to Saudi Arabia when I was 12, both revolving around food. The first recalls a drippy, tender shawarma with steak, hummus, bright-pink pickled turnips, tomatoes and parsley in a warm pita. The other is the vegetal, unrefined chewing gum made from the sap of the acacia tree.

The best place I've found in town to relive these sensory experiences so burned into my psyche is Middle East Market near Sand Lake Road. The OBT spot is equal parts specialty grocery store (find all the Mediterranean gum, candy, hookah tobacco and canned goods you might need), deli (all sorts of ready-prepared foods to take away) and lunch counter (fresh hot shawarma and gyros sliced to order).

Their version of shawarma ($6.99) is strikingly similar to the one I first had in the Persian Gulf years ago. You can couple your sandwich with sides like kibbi ($1.99), a fried dumpling filled with bulgur, pine nuts and ground beef; okra stewed with sweet tomatoes; or a lemony and refreshing tomato-and-cucumber salad garlicky enough to ward away the undead. Finish off the meal with a date mamoul, a crumbly cookie filled with the sweet paste of dry dates ($1.49), somewhere between a French butter cookie and a Fig Newton.

The place is run by a gaggle of smiling, gregarious women, who all know their lunch regulars by their first names and laugh loudly and appreciatively, making the place sound less like a restaurant and more like your Lebanese grandma's kitchen – if you're lucky enough to have one.

Middle East Market & Deli

8100 S. Orange
Blossom Trail

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Orlando Weekly. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Orlando Weekly, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at [email protected].

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club for as little as $5 a month.