Is it too soon to declare Phoenicia inner loopers new favorite grocery store? After two-and-a-half years of planning and months of delays, Phoenicia Specialty Foods Downtown is finally open and it is awesome.
In the store's first hours on Monday, downtown residents and workers alike were wandering the aisles of sleek chrome shelving, perusing the olive bar, gazing at the beautiful pastry treats in the dessert cases and hanging out near the pita counter where hot and fluffy versions travel down from the second floor to be packaged and served.
The 100,000-square-foot emporium on Houston's west side has been culled to an efficient 28,000 square feet, mixing the global selection that Phoenicia is known for with staples for a neighborhood grocer. Co-owner Haig Tcholakian says the shelves are about 90 percent full but there are still more products to come.
And let's not forget the best part: the parking. The Phoenicia spaces on the second and third floor of One Park Place are easy to get to and clearly marked, with an elevator straight down into the store.
The store defintely has an urban feel, and manages to be full without feeling overwhelming.
There are the standards — Omaha meats, cheap vegetables, Blue Bell ice cream, and household products — plus all the extras that Phoenicia is known for.
Incredible spice aisle? Check.
Shelf full of honey varieties? You know it.
Don't even get me started on the olive oils.
And the fruit counters dont just have tangerines and Fuji apples — there are also quinces, persimmons and dates. There is a sizeable wine section and plenty of hard-to-find imports and specialty items, with the two-floors comprising 10,000 products from 50 countries.
The store is wrapped with a sleek seating area for those who want a meal. In addition to the salad and olive bars, there's a shawarma station with lamb, chicken and other meats ready to slice into gyros, plus prepared foods counters with faves like hummus and muhammara. Or follow the lead of one of Phoenicia's first customers on Monday and grab coffee and then hang out with your laptop and the free Wi-Fi.
For a more typical restaurant experience, Phoenicia also has a dedicated restaurant, coffeeshop and bar called MKT BAR. Offering pizza, sliders, coffee, a dozen beers on tap, wine and Trentino gelato in flavors like chocolate bacon that were specially made for Phoenicia. MKT BAR will have evening entertainment and stay open until 2 a.m. on Thursday through Saturday.
And let's not forget the best part: the parking. The Phoenicia spaces on the second and third floor of One Park Place are easy to get to and clearly marked, with an elevator straight down into the store. It's the best system of free parking in downtown Houston and easier than getting into and out of a crowded Starbucks parking lot.
Check out the video, above, for a first look at the completed Phoenicia downtown.