great food finds is an occasional series where we explore the markets that give the valley character. this time, we're at baiz market place.

baiz market place

baiz fresh foods make whole wheat and regular pita bread.(p o: jennifer mcclellan/the republic)

take a peek inside the grocery carts being pushed through the aisles at baiz market place and you’ll see more than a few that are half-filled with bags of freshly baked pita.

these carts belong to shoppers who have discovered that baiz sells packages of the chewy bread discs for a mere 99 cents — perhaps the best deal in town.

pitas, which freeze well, come in regular and whole wheat and are made from scratch daily at baiz (pronounced “bays”), a middle eastern store with locations in phoenix and mesa.

the baiz family emigrated from lebanon to america and opened their namesake business in phoenix in 2004, catering to the halal dietary needs of 30,000-plus arizonans who identify as arab-american. in the summer, they launched baiz fresh foods in mesa.

baiz market place near 20th and van buren streets in

baiz market place near 20th and van buren streets in phoenix.

 (p o: jennifer mcclellan/the republic)

baiz market place

the phoenix branch is a small store located in an affordable-housing neighborhood near 20th and van buren streets. despite its tiny footprint, it’s jam-packed with fresh fruits and vegetables, gr -fed beef and imported goods such as fig jam, greek olives, turkish coffee and rose water. conver ions, like the food labels, are in english and arabic.

the particularity at phoenix store is quite different from what you’ll find in mesa.

editor's note: mobile users can view a full interactive map here.

baiz fresh foods

the new store is located inside a former bashas’ at a strip mall near baseline and dobson roads in mesa. it’s about twice as big as its phoenix sibling and sells a variety of american grocery staples. kellogg cereals, nature’s own bread and lipton tea are stocked along with avo’s bakery mediterranean breadsticks, parle-g biscuits from india and alghazaleen tea, a popular brand in jordan, iran and afghanistan. the clientele consists of loyal baiz shoppers as well as curious newbies.

“a lot of customers are thrilled about the mesa store because they used to have to drive to phoenix,” said sarah swaidan, the lebanese-born floor manager. “we are also getting people in who just want to see and they’re like, ‘whoa.’ ”

baiz fresh foods near dobson and baseline roads in

baiz fresh foods near dobson and baseline roads in mesa.

 (p o: jennifer mcclellan/the republic)

al hana

one of the showstoppers at both stores is the in-house restaurant.

the impressive shawarma plate at al hana is piled with lamb and beef that’s shaved off a spinning grill. it’s a best-seller, along with the kebab plate. both are served with basmati rice, mixed vegetables, pickles, pita bread and house-made hummus. in mesa, you can get lamb shanks, spiced potatoes, moussaka and to-go portions of hummus, which swaidan calls a customer favorite. “people say, 'this is the best hummus i have ever had.' "

here are some of the most interesting things we found at baiz market place and baiz fresh foods.

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produce

the produce section at baiz is one of its biggest draws for two reasons: low prices and hard-to-find items. weekly sales provide deep discounts, such as green apples, serrano chiles, squash, cauliflower and pomegranate for 49 cents a pound. green pistachios, fresh yellow dates, guava, lychee, jujubi and whole coconut are among the offerings not typically seen at most big-box stores.

also check out: medjool dates, pears, peaches, prickly pear, fresh green beans, okra and a variety of chiles.

green beans, okra and a variety of chiles are sold

green beans, okra and a variety of chiles are sold at baiz fresh foods.

 (p o: jennifer mcclellan/the republic)

bakery

in mesa, the commercial-sized pita bakery takes up a large corner next to the produce department. it’s a smaller operation in phoenix, with just a few ovens, but yields the same deliciousness. baiz makes sweets, too. look for baklava filled with pistachio and other chopped nuts, bird’s nest-looking ush bolbol and honey-kissed swar al sit.

also check out: house-made savory pies with fillings such as beef, tomato and onions; or mozzarella and feta. if you’re looking for something crunchy, try the mediterranean cracker bread made by tala bakery in phoenix.

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meat  

beef, lamb and goat sold at baiz is hormone-free, hand-butchered and meets halal standards. “it’s fresh, gr -fed and sold at very competitive prices,” swaidan added. you’ll find a variety of cuts such as t-bone steak, rib eye, boneless beef shank, lamb ribs, beef brisket and ground beef.

also check out: offal meats such as beef tongue and lamb tripe. oxtail, beef feet and goat leg also are available.

butcher peris rizk works at the halal meat counter

butcher peris rizk works at the halal meat counter at baiz fresh foods.

 (p o: jennifer mcclellan/the republic)

spices

the spice aisle is packed with exotic spices such as zaatar, turmeric, ground sumac and lebanese seven spices. saffron, one of the priciest spices in the world, is kept behind gl cases at the register. it runs about $6 a gram. for an easy meal, you can buy seasoning packets such as meat masala, madras curry, chicken kabob and shawarma.

also check out: packets of whole nutmeg, dried orange peels, cardamom, fenugreek, dried leeks, anise seeds, rose buds and black sesame seeds.

cooking

need 5 gallons of black greek olives? how about 25 pounds of teff flour and lebanese olive oil? baiz has them. you’ll find a prism of products in the dried goods section: yellow split peas, pink beans, brown bulgur, red lentils and green mung beans. flours of all sorts are stocked, too. look for rice flour, chickpea flour, barley flour and sorghum flour.

also check out: the beautiful tins of imported olive oils and bulk bins of seeds, such as squash, sunflower and pumpkin.

the spice aisle is packed at baiz fresh foods.

the spice aisle is packed at baiz fresh foods.

 (p o: jennifer mcclellan/the republic)

baiz market place 

where: 523 n. 20th st., phoenix. 

hours: 9 a.m.-8 p.m. mondays- urdays; 9 a.m.-6 p.m. sundays.

details: 602-252-8996, baizmarket.com. 

baiz fresh foods 

where:  1858 w. baseline road, mesa. 

hours: 9 a.m.-9 p.m. mondays- urdays; 9 a.m.-8 p.m. sundays. 

details: 480-718-9227, baizmarket.com.

reach the reporter at [email protected] or 602-444-8546. follow on twitter @jenmcclel

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