If the turnout at last night's event is any indication, Houstonians are very (very) excited about the new Phoenicia Specialty Foods, set to open in April 2011. Dreary weather did little to dissuade upwards of 600 people from attending the groundbreaking of the location at One Park Place (1001 Austin St.) in downtown Houston. The party was a food porn parade of Eastern cheese, international beer and wine, gelato (pistachio with orange blossom is to die for), and a Mediterranean spread and dip bar.
Arpi Tcholakian steals the show in this fantastic three-minute promo piece for the new downtown location.
In 1983 Bob and Arpi Tcholakian opened the humble 2,500-square-foot Mediterranean-style delicatessen and grocery that gradually became the 55,000-square-foot giant in West Houston today. The new downtown store will occupy 28,000 square feet on the ground floor of One Park Place and two floors of the garage above for parking. In addition to standard grocery fare, Phoenicia boasts more than 6,000 imported products from more than 50 countries.
We had the good fortune to score a private tour of the future space, little more than a pile of dirt and rubble at present time. The Tcholakian's eldest son Raffi outlined the family's plans for the location, including a wine and beer bar, gelato bar, modern dining area, sandwich station, salad bar, fresh baked pizza corner, and two of the signature pita bread conveyor lines that have made the West Houston location a tourist destination. We had to steady ourselves to keep from swooning when he announced that catering services would be available to the businesses and residents of Downtown Houston and surrounding areas.
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Upon leaving we were handed a small sapling--promo for a partnership with Trees for Houston encouraging us to "Grow with Phoenicia"--and a package of the legendary pita bread, fresh from the conveyer belt. Everything we've eaten since has been in a pita, and the downtown location can't open soon enough.