A supermarket offers a taste of pure nostalgia to middle easterners.
One of the best grocery stores in Toronto is Arz Fine Foods, a Middle Eastern superstore located at 1909 Lawrence Avenue East in Scarborough. For Torontonians originally from the Middle East, such as my Iraqi-born friend H., coming to Arz is a nostalgia-filled tour. “These are the counters of my childhood,” H. says. “Today, supermarkets in the Middle East look like Loblaws, but Arz is like they used to be 25 years ago.”
The supermarket is known for its fresh, high-quality fare from all over the Mediterranean, and also for its top-notch line of Arz-branded products, which are made in the supermarket basement and its Scarborough factory. “Arz” is the Arab word for “cedar,” the national symbol of Lebanon. The shop was opened 20-odd years ago by a Lebanese family of Armenian origin.
Our first stop was the produce department, where picture-perfect exotic fruit such as curly cucumbers and zereshk are on display. Then we headed to check out Arz’s house brand of dips: muhammara, made of ground walnuts, pomegranate and peppers; tirokafteri, a spicy cheese dip; various kinds of hummus and labneh, a type of cream cheese. H. points out a jar of labneh balls marinated in mint. “You eat these while you’re drinking ouzo,” she explains.
Spice City Toronto explores Toronto’s great hole-in-the-wall restaurants and strip-mall joints serving food from all corners of the world.