Rather than watching news commentators bicker about what’s going on in the Middle East, we should all go share a gyro at Salem Garni’s Mediterranean Market and Deli. We could argue about the origins of baba ganouj (Turkey? Lebanon?), or whether Halal meat tastes any different than meat processed the western way. Or we could talk sports–Salem is as well-versed in the NFL as he is in the more beautiful football game, popular in his native Libya. Salem Garni is the quintessential neighborhood grocer–a storyteller whose stories linger in that hazy place between fact and fiction and a cook who knows your order by heart.
Like many Boulderites, Salem went to CU; however, he says, family ties in grocery lured him away from his college major and into the family business. His father had a store in Libya when he was growing up, where they sold and prepared Italian food (did you know that Libya was an Italian colony in the early 1900s?). Salem founded the Mediterranean Market and Deli in 2006 in the space next to Salvaggio’s on east Pearl Street. He’s now in a strip mall on a very short block of Bluff Street, just off of 28th.
In terms of non-comestible items, the most intriguing are the hookahs (just because), and the bottles of rose water, of which Salem stocks a few varieties. He claims that spa owners from Aspen and Vail order this from him, requesting it to be sent via UPS to their fancy mountain salons. As if this is not exotic enough, when I ask Salem where the rose water comes from, he answers quite simply, Persia.