Expanding the Flavor: Water Street Deli closes restaurant to focus on wholesale

Samantha Kobs, photos by Andrea Paulseth

A DIP IN PRODUCTION. Water Street Deli owner Sam Almadhoun is closing the beloved restaurant portion of his business to focus on the wholesale production of the deli’s hummus and pita chip offerings.

If you could travel 10 years into the past, what would you find? The first ever iPhone being released. The last Harry Potter book being published. But in local news, what happened in 2007? For those who may not know, that’s when local legendary gyro slinger Sam Almadhoun moved to Eau Claire. Within two years, he and business partner Nizar Ottoman opened the doors to Water Street Deli at 628 Water St. and began enticing patrons with American-Greek-Middle Eastern cuisine such as succulent gyros, sizzling chicken kabobs, and of course (as many vegetarians agree), the tastiest falafel around.

Ask a local where to get the best gyro or hummus, and they’ll likely respond without hesitation: Water Street Deli. But here’s some downright falawful news … in just a few short days, the Water Street Deli will be closing its restaurant doors. But as the saying goes, when one door closes, another door opens.

What door is opening, you ask? The door of wholesale business. But it’s actually been open for a while: Water Street Deli has been selling its products – largely its hummus and pita chips – to grocers such as Just Local Foods, Woodman’s Markets, and Festival Foods for a while. You can find their products on shelves in Menomonie, Rice Lake, and Chippewa Falls, too.

And it’s not stopping there. According to Sam, the wholesale business has been going pretty darn well. In fact, this is the reason for the cut in operating hours for the restaurant. Simply put, Sam and his four-person crew work six days a week soaking, blending, cutting, frying, and baking to supply to grocers in the area, which has left less time to run the restaurant. In such a small space with such a small team, the restaurant is being placed on the backburner.

So what’s the future look like? Expansion, for one – along with total and complete domination of the hummus and falafel markets.

Actually, Sam plans to get himself a nice refrigerated food truck and take his signature flavors to other cities, such as La Crosse and Madison. To keep up with offers from grocers (such as eventually supplying to all Woodman’s stores across multiple states) Sam says more space and more human-power are needed, thus Water Street Deli will be relocating.

Where to? They haven’t quite decided yet, but if all goes as planned, the new space will offer enough room to continue wholesale business while also (eventually, hopefully, but no promises yet) offering space for a newer, bigger, and better restaurant. Sam said he sees that prospect as a great way to continue to connect with the community, meet new folks, and “keep the people happy.”

You can still grab food there (at least you still could at press time), but time is running short. June 29 and 30 mark the last two days of restaurant operation. But don’t worry if you can’t make it. Until the anticipative launching of a new restaurant, Water Street Deli can still be found in the hearts of its loyal customers and proudly sold at a grocery store or market near you.

So that’s something, right?

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