In search of a reasonably priced breakfast in Houston, the concierge of a major upmarket hotel pointed me in the direction of Phoenicia Speciality Foods on the ground floor of the luxury apartment block One Park Place, and what a find it turned out to be.
Not only can you purchase amazing, freshly-made pancakes with strawberries and syrup for only $1.50 each, but you can feast your eyes on the 15,000 gourmet foods on offer, including the 25ft long olive bar, a wonderful selection of pastries and baked goods, and a cornucopia of speciality items from around the world.
The olive bar, Phoenicia Speciality Foods, Houston
A 150ft long conveyor belt snakes its way into the middle of this 28,000sqft store, bringing freshly baked pita breads and pizzas from the glass-fronted in-store bakery and demo kitchen upstairs. Here you will also find a wine shop, a wide range of oils and vinegars, and kitchen wares.
If you want to eat your purchases then and there, there is an eating area on the other side of the check outs, which is part of the Phoenicia's MKT BARa café bar with a small stage in one corner where there is something happening every night. You can purchase breakfast items cooked in store, such as scrambled eggs, bacon and sausages, along with freshly brewed tea or coffee. Lunch selections include $10 hot boxes of shawarma pita wraps, salad and sandwich boxes and speciality pastry selections such as walnut baklavas and coconut namouras.
The in-store bakery and demo kitchen at Phoenicia Speciality Foods, Houston
The downtown Houston branch of Phoenicia Speciality Foods was opened in November 2011 by Bob and Arpi Tcholakian, who are of Lebanese and Armenian descent, nearly 30 years after they opened their first enterprise in Houston, a modest 2,500sq ft delicatessen and grocery on the outskirts of the city. Today, they have two major stores, the MKT BAR, a coffee shop and the delicatessen, all in the Houston area.