The Wadi family has had profound effects on the quality of life and general deliciousness of life in the Twin Cities. The family, Palestinian Muslims who spent time in Kuwait before immigrating to the United States, is most prominent in local food circles because elder son Majdi Wadi leads the two Holy Land markets—the enormous one in Northeast and a smaller, but still significant one, in Midtown Global Market in central Minneapolis. These markets are wonderlands. Shelves and shelves of bread, most baked on-site, are the first thing you see when you walk in, followed by golden squares of honey cake, cylindrical stacks of pita bread, long Afghani sesame loages, Lebanese lavash, Tandoor-oven bread, zatar cheese pies, spinach pies, and much, much more. The bakery of Holy Land, considered the best of its kind in town, supplies itself, but also does a robust wholesale business to local groceries, which keeps product fresh.
Holy Land also makes and wholesales a line of hummus spreads, appetizers, and salads, which they sell to regional groceries, though to find the greatest array you need to go to the original store. If you do, you’ll see all the makings for a deluxe spread of Middle Eastern mezze, ready to go, like plump little grape leaves, fresh springy tabbouli, compact already-fried falafel balls, a zesty cucumber sauce, smoky baba ghanoush, more than half a dozen sorts of hummus (from traditional tahini to a Greek-influenced artichoke and spinach), and more unusual dishes like mish, a spicy, zingy, yogurt-and-feta based dip not unlike Middle Eastern pimento cheese, and labneh, a Middle Eastern way of making yogurt cheese into spheres, and curing it in spiced olive oil (think of labneh as the Arabian peninsula’s version of bocconcini, those little Italian mozzarella balls which show so well on a tomato salad). What to pair with it all? Maybe halal lamb chops (or halal beef mortadella) from the well-stocked meat case; the market has a butcher shop in the back which takes apart whole, local, halal-slaughtered animals, making it a destination for budget hunters (best prices on lamb in the area) and offal-fans (one of the most reliable places to find beef tripe, lamb tongues, and such). If you need inspiration for what to do with lamb belly, stop by Saffron, a downtown restaurant helmed by Sameh Wadi, one of the younger members of the clan, and the current world-record holder for the youngest-ever chef-contestant on Iron Chef America. He makes the best lamb bacon ever.