From Michigan Fresh, 1992
New Yasmeen Bakery and Deli
New Yasmeen's pita bread has become a familiar staple at many metro Detroit groceries, and its fatiya or spinach pies are considered the best around. Lebanese spinach pies are much simpler and healthier than their Greek counterparts in filo dough that's flaky with butter. Fatiya dough is plumper and more substantial, and the spinach filling is deliciously lemony. One and a half or two pies make a handy, satisfying lunch for $1.50 or less. Meat pies, filled with a ground lamb mix, come in the same plump triangular pockets (both are 75 cents), while the same dough in is used for round, 10” open pies topped with cheese, meat, or thyme mixed with sesame and oil ($1.25 each).
Now the bakery has moved and expanded. It has a dell and a large area with tables, and it stays open until 8:30. "It's the talk of the town," says an enthusiastic Dearborn resident. Now it's easy to stop for a quick meal for less than half of what you'd pay at a nearby restaurant, and go home with an array of breads, spreads like hummus, and salad fixings like tabooli and fatoush so you wouldn't have to cook for days. Big refrigerator cases of deli items like stuffed grape leaves, and several kinds of olives and cheese mean you can put together a fast, quick, and varied meal, topped off with sweets like date fingers or sesame pistachio cookies or sponge cakes.
Like nearly all Middle Eastern breads, the pita bread is made without preservatives. It also freezes well, just take it out five or ten minutes before you want to use it. Buy them here at the store, and you get 1 extra, 11 in all, for 75 cents. Many people buy 10 bags at a time.
The helpful, friendly staff is happy to provide samples and advise non-Arabs about what to eat with what and when. Labne, for instance, is a thickened form of yogurt that makes a terrific, healthy breakfast when spread, with or without jam, on date-filled bread rings, raisin bread ($1 a loaf), and other breakfast breads. (Watch out and ask first! A fair number of those beautiful-looking breads are flavored with cardamom, which many Americans find a strange taste.)
New Yasmeen is run largely by four members of the Siblini family from Loubieh in south Lebanon, too close to Israel for its own good. Their father and grandfather were also bakers. Ibrahim, the middle son, was the first to come to Detroit, to study engineering. On a visit, his older brother Mohamad saw the opportunity offered by the burgeoning Arab population and the increasing popularity of healthy Middle Eastern food to someone willing to start a good-sized, aggressively run bakery. He started New Yasmeen in 1985. Now his extremely pleasant sister Amane and her husband manage the store at night. The younger Siblini brother Hussein is the retail manager. Though Hussein has a degree in engineering from Wayne State, he's decided to join the family business. "The bakery is ours," he says, echoing the words of immigrant bakers from all over the world. "With it you can be your own boss."