Revisiting the Jerusalem Market

by Christian Bryant

The Turk from Jerusalem Market relies on dries beef sausage for a base, but it’s the other flavors that make it a symphony. (photo by Christian Bryant)

I just can’t get enough of this sandwich.

In the past week I have visited the Jerusalem Market in Greensboro at least three times and ordered the exact same thing: “The Turk.” By now, Easa and Saliba Hanhan must be suspicious.

The sandwich is actually a wrap and an original creation of the owner. The key ingredient is the spicy, dried beef sausage called soujouk that crawls over the tongue with an unmistakable tingling sensation.

If soujouk is the yin, then yogurt is the yang. The yogurt equalizes the spicy residue that sets up camp on every corner of the taste buds. The yogurt is layered between freshly chopped tomatoes, jalapeño sauce and lettuce; all is sleeping-bagged into a heated wrap with melted provolone.

To wash away the orofacial campsite, I select a Fizzy Lizzy grapefruit soda. The sticker around the neck of the bottle says “Award Winning.” I always think to myself, I’m not sure what award, but this stuff is bomb.

In March 1989, Greensboro got its first taste of the newly opened Jerusalem Market, and since the beginning they’ve offered fresh food and groceries rarely found in the area, much less the country. Twenty-one years later, people, like me are still discovering what the fuss is about.

“Twenty-one years ago, Greensboro didn’t have much of anything,” Saliba says. “It was hard to find simple specialty things.”

Saliba usually sits stoically behind the display counter of the deli where specialty meats and desserts can be gazed upon. Today, Saliba’s glasses lay on top of a newspaper as his eyes stay affixed to the TV screen but when guests come in, he’s engaging. Always.

Saliba, a trained chemist, gardener and cook, received his bachelor’s degree from the American University of Beirut and a master’s from Miami University in Ohio.

“I was a chemist and I wasn’t happy,” Saliba said. “[The Jerusalem Market] was something I had in my head.”

Not much has changed according to Saliba.

“These sandwiches are the same way they’ve been for 15 years,” he says, “and they’re all original.”

Easa, Saliba’s son, remarks on their clientele over the years. “You deal with good people,” Easa says. “We have customers appreciate what we do and they give love.”

The aesthetics inside the market exude just as much flavor as the Turk. It’s an experience just crossing the threshold.

Along the walls are large photos, mainly of Lebanon and Israel. Some display the intricate dress. Others are maps and photos of architecture.

“We like our store to be a destination,” Easa adds. “You can absorb….” My fascination with one picture in particular takes over our conversation. The title reads “Doorways of Jerusalem.” The picture is pretty much self-explanatory but there’s more to it.

Easa divulges that the doors and doorframes to the homes shown in the photograph are sacred. To the naked eye, they are just interesting designs to a necessary part of the homes, but it is said that the doors tell a story about each family in the same manner as a coat of arms. It may tell a story about their history or their religion.

With that in mind, so much can be said about the seemingly underwhelming entrance to the Jerusalem Market: Bells hang from the handrail located on the inside of the tall glass door, making for a noisy introduction for every patron. A glowing sign reads “deli” above the doorframe.

Most telling is the phrase located just under the Jerusalem Market sign. It reads, “You will be pleased.”

Indeed, I am. Every time.

wanna go?

The Jerusalem Market 5002 High Point Road Greensboro