Al Salam Bakery Deli & Restaurant
By Gene Kosowan

Three stores in one

There's no doubt that ethnic cuisine has added a great deal of diversity to the dining scene in Edmonton. And while some cultures have greater representation in the culinary landscape of the city, others manage to have just a few restaurants offering food reflective of their heritage. Such is the case with Al Salam Bakery and Restaurant, located in the deep south of Edmonton. The Lebanese store – probably one of a handful throughout the city – makes a trip across town worthwhile, not only because of its unique cuisine, but due to its value-added amenities as well.

"It's a bakery, grocery store and restaurant, so it's all three in one," says Mohamad Araji, Al Salam's manager. "And we deliver pita bread to other restaurants in the city." Adding to the charm of the place is the fact that it's a family-owned business, and the service is reflective of that character – you're certain to be treated with warmth when you make your order.

We make everything from scratch and try to make all the food as original as possible. - Mohamad Araji, manager
Al Salam Bakery and Restaurant is a favourite for those seeking Lebanese cuisine in Edmonton.
Al Salam Bakery and Restaurant is a bakery, grocery store and restaurant all in one – making the trip to Edmonton's south worth the drive. Photo by YP.

Family business

Taking its name from part of an Arabic greeting, Al Salam has been around since 2007, the result of a great deal of work among everyone in the Araji household. "My father was always into the food business," Mohamad says. "He had a bakery in Lebanon and when we moved here, he wanted to open one up." Even Mohamed, who graduated from the University of Alberta with a business degree, helped his father out when he was a kid. And while he admits he was never sure that his career lay in the family business, it helped to have the book smarts and childhood experience available to contribute to the establishment's growth.

"It's not easy to run a restaurant," Mohamed says. "It's always busy and is a lot of hard work. Like the pita bread, we start making at 5 a.m. and it's ready to go out the door by 9 a.m. And then we focus on the restaurant in the afternoon." Big sellers at the restaurant include the varieties of pizza all created on pizza crusts as well as its platters of chicken and beef kabobs, falafels and kafta. But the biggest hidden find is the shawarma, served with your choice of beef or chicken plus an assortment of veggies and a tangy pickle wrapped in a pita.

"I'd say our shawarma is healthier than a donair," Mohamad says. "A donair has more processed meat and more fat. In our shawarma, the chicken and beef are more natural and we put it together ourselves."

Al Salam and Restaurant's dining area offers plenty of spots for diners to chow down on delicious Lebanese cuisine.
Al Salam Bakery and Restaurant is worth the trip across town, whether one is going to have a sit-down meal in the restaurant or just pick up some items in the grocery section. Photo by YP.

Authentic and Lebanese

The grocery store is equally authentic in terms of where the goods come from, and you'll find a few items from Syria and Egypt. There's also an assortment of juices, chick peas, prape leaves, kishk (a yougurt-like soup), olives, pickels, seafood and even turtle beans and red hot peppers. Regardless of what Al Salam creates or sells, the bottom line is to be as reflective of Lebanese food culture as possible. And a word-of-mouth reputation that has increased business is a testament to that stance.

"We make everything from scratch and try to make all the food as original as possible," says Mohamad, adding that the family has taken great pains to avoid any westernization of their products. "If you've ever tasted the food from Lebanon, ours is as close as you can get to those tastes."

And given that all the recipes are created by Mohamad's father – who's usually visible prepping in the kitchen – they're all closely-guarded secrets. "I don't even know what's in them," Mohamad says.

Al Salam Bakery and Restaurant has become a popular destination for lovers of Lebanese cuisine.
Al Salam Bakery and Restaurant has seen its business grow over the years, largely due to its focus on providing an authentic Lebanese experience. Photo by YP.
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