The Hosns share hospitality and cuisine at their Middle Eastern market and restaurant on Lake City Way.
JAY AND NICOLE Hosn opened Goodies Mediterranean Market in 2009 because they saw a niche that needed filling. Despite its tucked-away location on Lake City Way, business has been busy and is constantly expanding.
They sell blocks of feta from Greece, France, Hungary and Bulgaria; tubs of olives in varying hues from palest green to black; and grass-fed free-range halal lamb from Oregon, prepared on-site by a Turkish butcher. There are aisles of groceries you’ve been looking for, like pomegranate molasses, freekeh and tahini, as well as many items you didn’t know you needed, such as pickled mango ambar and frozen kibbe. Seasonal fresh produce can include anything from Persian cucumbers and okra to fresh dates and sour plums.
It’s no surprise that some of Goodies’ customers are immigrants from the Middle East and people who have traveled and are looking to re-create dishes they tasted abroad. But there are also plenty of curious shoppers; people who love Mediterranean food; and fans of cookbooks such as those by Yotam Ottolenghi, who often bring in a cookbook instead of a shopping list.
The grocery used to be in the street-level storefront, but as demand for their manaeesh (traditional Lebanese flatbreads baked in a wood-fired oven) increased, the Hosns began thinking about opening a restaurant. When the space below them became available, they moved the grocery downstairs and expanded what was a small counter at the back into a casual restaurant. Now Man’oushe Express offers a handful of well-made Mediterranean staples (hummus, falafel, shawarma) and a list of manaeesh I’m obsessed with, particularly one topped with herbaceous za’atar and another with finely ground lamb flavored with tomato and spices.
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Jay was born in Lebanon and immigrated with his family to Glendale, Calif., when he was 13. A cousin in Seattle convinced Jay’s father to open a restaurant on Capitol Hill, which he did. He ran it for 18 months before giving it to Jay’s oldest brother, Kamal, and returning to the rest of his family in California. Kamal’s family still runs the Mediterranean Kitchen restaurants.
Nicole is Dutch, but was raised in Taiwan and came to California to study. Jay was in the import/export business and met Nicole’s family in Taiwan. They asked him to bring her a care package, and the rest is history. In 1994, the couple had their fourth son, and Jay wanted his family to experience life in Lebanon. They went on vacation and loved it so much, they decided to move to Beirut for one year. Surrounded and embraced by Jay’s extended family, that year, says Jay, “turned into the most beautiful 10 years of our lives.”
They returned to the United States when Kai, their eldest son, was 17, and a cousin convinced them to come to Seattle. Jay started looking for business opportunities, but in the meantime, the family was driving back and forth to Los Angeles to visit friends and family and returning with carloads of Lebanese ingredients they couldn’t find here. Each time they went, more people would ask them to bring something back, until finally they had the idea to open Goodies. It was their youngest son, Julian, who suggested naming it after Goodies grocery in Lebanon.
These days, sons Riyen and Julian work upstairs at Man’oushe Express (Kai has a construction company, and Tarek is a pilot). Jay and Nicole started Goodies with a purpose: to share the warmth and hospitality that’s so central to Lebanese culture. Nicole says of Jay’s ability to both network for business and make friends out of strangers in a minute, “He’s got people skills,” but the truth is that they all do, and it’s the secret to their success.