Convenience stores double as fronts for tasty Middle Eastern food

By Bill Brady

If you think anything at all as you drive past the Super USA on Larpenteur Avenue near Highway 280, it’s probably something like, “Gee, this looks like a gas station without any gas pumps.”

It’s true. The fuel that drives foot traffic for most convenience stores is conspicuously missing from Super USA’s forecourt.

So how do they entice people to stop in?

For a hint, check out the cartoonish drawing of a sandwich wrap on the front window. Behind that window you’ll find Ed’s Deli, home of the tastiest schwarmas this side of Lebanon.

The “Ed” is 32-year-old store owner Ed Siouffy. Or is it his father, 62-year old Edgard Siouffy, the guy who makes the sandwiches? They work so closely together, it could be either one.

Edgard, the elder, brought his recipes with him when he immigrated to America in 1992 with his four-month-old son in tow. Years later, in 2018, they began work in the Super USA property the Super USA property and gradually replaced its existing reheated pizza and warmed-over hot dog deli with genuine Lebanese fare.

Can’t tell a deli by its storefront

Ed’s is one of two convenience stores in Bugleland that ups its game by offering classic Mediterranean lunch food made to order. The other is the Winner Gas –Pump N’ Munch at 2233 Energy Park Drive.

That, too, is owned by a Lebanese immigrant named Ed—Eddie Elias (he and Edgard Siouffy are friends). And that, too, enjoys a stellar reputation, thanks in large part to its deli manager, Hayat Germanous, a master chef who’s been making Mediterranean cuisine for more than 30 years and even offers cooking workshops.

Pump N’ Munch actually came first. Elias opened the strip mall property in 2011 and hired Germanous to manage the deli three years later. Her varied menu of Lebanese and American lunch favorites often takes gas patrons by surprise.

“I did not expect to find freshly made falafel, hummus, spinach cheese pie plus more inside a gas station!” reads one of many favorable online reviews. “It is worth the walk inside.”

Jesse M. of San Diego discovered it when his truck broke down in inclement weather and he ventured inside for warmth. “The folks running the gas station made me comfortable during a stressful situation. There are still good people in the world! Also, their food is delicious.”

A deli-cious evolution

Ed’s Deli evolved over several years. As the younger Ed recalls, one day shortly after they took over his dad said, “Let’s try making something like I make at home, something with chicken and garlic.”

Soon thereafter, “We started selling Shish Taouk sandwiches on Thursdays,” Ed said. “Then we added a beef sandwich on Tuesdays, then falafel on Wednesdays.”

The reason for the cautious roll-out was they had no idea what the demand would be, and they couldn’t afford to be left with wasted food. “But everyone started coming in and saying, ‘Why can’t I get beef today?’ No one could keep straight which day was which.”

When they resumed operations after a brief COVID shutdown in 2020, the Ed’s Deli duo decided to offer all three sandwiches all day Monday through Friday.

Word spread fast, mostly by word of mouth. “I’m not very good at social media,” Ed concedes, “and we haven’t really advertised. But word got around.”

Indeed it did. In May 2022 their shawarma landed in the Star Tribune’s “Five Best Things We Ate Last Week” feature. Writer Joy Summers fairly gushed over the “gently spiced chicken, grilled onions, soft peppers and a hefty dollop of the most powerful and delectable toum sauce … The sandwich was roughly the size of my forearm. I was happily radiating garlic.”

Today the deli boasts a full menu of food made-to-order or pre-packaged to go, from hummus to shawarma pizza. The chicken and beef sandwiches are the best-sellers, but the unsung hero (unsung gyro?) of the menu may be the Sujuk, a dryer, spicier fermented beef wrap.

“It takes a little longer to make, so you need to have extra time or order ahead,’ said the younger Ed. “But it’s worth it.”

Here’s a tip if you decide to go. Tell Edgard it’s your first visit, and he’ll give you a free sample. He’s that kind of guy. In fact, Edgard’s engaging rapport with customers is half the fun.

As Warren J. of Minnetonka said in his Yelp review, “The old Middle Eastern guy who made (the sandwich) for me said, ‘The meat … it is fresh! Everything is fresh! Squeeze the lemon over it all. You will enjoy!’ 

Bill Brady is the Bugle’s copy editor. He hasn’t missed many meals over the years.

Photo cutlines

Sign on the front door of Winner Gas – Pump ‘N Munch. Source: Winner Gas Facebook page.

Edgard (left) and Ed Siouffy at their deli stand. The sign above was designed by an artist/customer who lives in the neighborhood. Photo by Bill Brady.

Ed Siouffy in front of a store sign designed by an artist/customer who lives in the neighborhood. Photo by Bill Brady.

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