Nfld. & Labrador

New Syrian restaurant and grocery set to open in St. John's

At the end of this month, a St. John's couple will open Sumac Middle Eastern Market and Eatery, specializing in Syrian cuisine and groceries.
Tarek Hani Jaml and Roxanne Jaml will open Sumac Middle Eastern Market and Eatery at the end of May. (Lisa Gushue/CBC)

A couple is opening a new business this spring that they hope will fill the void of a lack of Syrian cuisine in the St. John's area.

Tarek Hani Jaml and Roxanne Jaml are excited to open Sumac Middle Eastern Market and Eatery, which will offer dishes and groceries not currently offered locally.

Tarek and Roxanne, pictured here with their first child in Abu Dhabi. (Roxanne Jaml)

The couple told CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show they've got the support of the local Syrian community — and the locals. 

"[It's] totally Arabic style. It's going to have a pantry where customers can get halal foods, authentic Middle Eastern foods, and some Middle Eastern products," Roxanne said.

"And then of course we have a little sandwich area on the side where you can order sandwiches and plates. Everything will be made from scratch, even our sauces. Nothing is going to be packaged." 

In preparation of launching their business, Roxanne and Tarek conducted a marketing survey and interviewed about a hundred people.

A resounding 86 per cent said they think there's a need for an eatery of this kind in the city. 

"We want excellent quality, and a service that's in need, and having that pantry side of the business will add that security," Roxanne said.

Tarek Hani Jaml and Roxane Jaml say that lentil soup will definitely be on their eatery's menu. (Roxanne Jaml)

Schawarma poutine

Expect to find traditional Middle Eastern fare such as falafel and shawarma on the menu, including one kind Roxanne said that has a real cultural twist.

"Be sure to check out our shawarma poutine, true to our marriage [of cultures], Canadian and Syrian."

Tarek, who is Syrian, met Roxanne in Abu Dhabi when she was teaching there. Tarek had already been living in the city for a number of years, managing a construction company.

The couple married, and had their first child in Abu Dhabi.

Their journey continued to St. John's, where they set up a home and became parents to two other children. 

Tarek waited two years for his citizenship before he could start working in the province, which was much longer than they'd first anticipated.

In case you were wondering, the business was named after sumac, a spice that's used almost exclusively in Middle Eastern cuisine.

"We use it for most of the salad and some kinds of Arabic food too," said Tarek.

Sumac is also his wife's favourite spice.

Sumac Middle Eastern Market and Eatery is slated to open at the end of May, on Torbay Road.

Stuffed gourmet dates. (Roxanne Jaml)

With files from the St. John's Morning Show