Conveniently located at the intersection of Court and State Streets, Maryams Mart is a little halal food market with a big heart.
On the surface, the convenience store sells products to satisfy all of your favorite vices: condoms, cigarettes, vaporizers and canned foods. It also boasts an impressive selection of beef jerky for such a small space. While Maryams originally only sold pre-packaged items, about six months ago they decided to convert part of the store into a kitchen. Lo, the halal food market was born.
Halal food essentially means food permissible to eat under Islamic law. The menu at Maryams resembles the ones at New York City halal carts — falafel, chicken and lamb are served in many styles to maximize flavor and minimize hunger. Whether you’re dying for a gyro, or maybe even a salad, Maryams has something for your palate.
“It’s really easy to make bad falafel. Even from falafel places you can get falafel that’s too dry,” said Jordan Mesibov, a sophomore majoring in biology. “Maryams falafel is some of the best I’ve ever had.”
Through Maryams Mart’s official Facebook page, the clerks try to connect with their customer base at a more personal level and foster a sense of community. Presenting it as a friendly neighborhood store, the workers of Maryams Mart hold very firmly that those who visit their store are more than just patrons. The clerks post photos of students buying halal food in the store daily and keep us in the loop with their personal Facebook posts. Rafael Morales, Maryams Mart’s residential chef, even posts photos of his biological family on special occasions.
“When I was young, a lot of stores used to treat people like family, not customers,” Morales said. “We’re trying to bring that back, we want them to feel warm and safe.”
The meal portions are more than filling for a flat rate of only $5 for any item. Since the food is made to order, you’ll always wind up with a hot and fresh meal. The store is looking to expand its menu in the coming months to include more American options like burgers and fries. Maryams Mart has also started delivering to the surrounding Broome County area, including the Binghamton University campus. Now you can get hot, fresh halal food delivered right to your dorm or apartment.
Morales has worked hard over the last six months to build up the kitchen to where it is today. According to him, the halal served at Maryams is similar to the food at other halal spots, except for one fundamental difference: Morales claims that he adds in the extra TLC.
“The secret to cooking is that you’ve got to love what you’re doing,” Morales said. “If you don’t love what you’re doing, then the food is not going to come out the right way.”
That attitude extends to the front of the store as well. Employee Sohail Khan mans the register with a smile and keeps interactions with customers friendly and caring, even when the store gets busy. Morales largely attributes this attitude to why customers keep coming back.
Maryams Mart believes strongly in the merits of community and charity, and often sponsors local events, including some on campus. The store also values giving back to the community, and will be sponsoring a cookout on May 31.
If you’re looking for that lunch place where people will recognize you, some place where you can be a regular, look no further than Maryams. With a respectful staff and brilliant food choices, you can’t go wrong with Court Street’s little slice of halal.