Jerusalem Market on Elm coming to Downtown Greensboro in September

by Jeff Sykes

Brothers Easa and Omar Hanhan are soon bringing the flavor of their father’s popular Sedgefield grocery deli to the booming 300 block of South Elm Street in Downtown Greensboro.Jerusalem Market on Elm is scheduled to open Sept. 1, Easa Hanhan said last week, confirming some of the most exciting news folks in Downtown Greensboro have been speculating about for more than a month.”We’re turning Jerusalem Market into a quick serving Middle Eastern restaurant,” Easa Hanhan said. “We’re doing takeout and sit down dining. We’re going to have counter service or we will bring your food to the table.”Jerusalem Market on Elm will occupy the ground floor at 310 S. Elm St., most recently the site of Harlem Express and the short-lived 310 BBQ. The space is next to 1618 Downtown. Dawn Chaney bought the property earlier this year. Hanhan said a quick series of events led the brothers to settle on the location after months of site consideration. The lease with Chaney was signed in late June.”We just want to make it an awesome hang-out place for the community and extend the community that Jerusalem Market the store has created to Jerusalem Market on Elm in Downtown Greensboro,” Hanhan said.

Omar and Easa will manage day to day operations of the Elm Street location, while Saliba Hanhan, who opened Jerusalem Market in 1989, will continue operating the grocery deli at 5002 W. Gate City Blvd.”We want to keep both because we want to have the store as one facet and the restaurant as another,” Easa Hanhan said. “The idea, eventually, is to have a few of our grocery items available here. We want to see what will be the best fit and what people ask for the most. We think several things like our olive oil and a handful of unique items that you can’t get anywhere else will fit down here too.”

Easa said the downtown restaurant will feature the best of their deli menu with a few new additions. When customers walk in the space they will first see the deli case.”It’s a large, curved-glass case with an open front,” he said. “We’re going to show our daily specials and specialty salads.”The menu will be attached to an I-beam behind the counter, and list the salads, sandwiches, entrees and kabobs.”We’re going to do the authentic shawarma, we’re going to make it every day,” Hanhan said, explaining that shawarma is the Middle Eastern word for a gyro consisting of stacked beef and lamb cooked on rotisserie. The restaurant was approved for a vertical rotisserie.Hanhan said the menu will include kabobs and kifta, which is ground lamb spiced with tomatoes and onions. In addition to their popular Greek salads, Jerusalem Market on Elm will offer a Middle Eastern version with sprinkled pita bread.”We will have all the things we have at the store currently,” he said. “All of our sandwiches, falafel, tabbouleh, oven roasted turkey; the combinations will be more flexible, you can pick and choose if you want to.”Hanhan said the combinations would include cold meze, the Middle Eastern version of tapas.”The idea is if you want to come in and get little sides, we want to have all of those available individually if you want them or added to the combo plates.”Easa said he and his brother had worked for their dad since “they could reach up to the register.” Omar studied culinary arts at GTCC before working in major restaurants in New York City and in Hong Kong. Easa studied business at UNCG. When Omar returned about three years ago, Easa said they realized their skill sets formed a great combination.”We pair up so well, and with our minds together, we can really do something great,” he said. “We just have the passion and we love the food anyway. It’s one of those things that is a natural extension of our business.”After considering locations on Lawndale and Battleground, and coming away without a strong feeling about those locations, Easa said they were immediately drawn to the location at 310 S. Elm St.”We always liked downtown, but we were always apprehensive too because we felt like it was on the cusp of growing out of the nightlife scene and into more of a neighborhood community,” Easa said. “We’ve always wanted to be part of that and we like that about our current store. People treat it like a community. They come and say hi sometimes without buying things. We like that. So we wanted to be somewhere where it felt like being part of a family.”The strip malls along major roadways lacked “personality and life,” but the Elm Street space jumped out at him at first glance.”It had an attitude and a character of its own,” Hanhan said. “That’s one thing I’ve always been a firm believer in, is that initial feeling you get when you look at something. It really means something. It’s a deep something.”Final permits and kitchen remodeling are still to come, and Easa said he anticipates a few soft openings for family and friends in late August before the Sept. 1 launch.The restaurant includes about 50 seats inside and a 10-seat patio in the back.”Just expect the same great stuff you always have from Jerusalem Market,” Hanhan said. “We can’t wait to see everyone down here and to continue the tradition. We live for this food. We love it and we’ve put our lives into it and we just want everyone to enjoy it.”