The first Arab restaurants and coffee houses opened in Highland Park in the 1910s and Dearborn in the 1920s to feed the factory workers who migrated to the US ahead of their spouses. Gradually, as more families settled in the area, grocery stores began opening, followed by fully- fledged Syrian/Lebanese restaurants. The Nation of Islam community was also quick to establish businesses that supported the new diet that went along with their new faith. Geneva X and Jesse X2 opened the Shabazz Restaurant in 1955 in a storefront on Russell Street. South Asian restaurants were slower to follow, given the plethora of halal options that had sprung up throughout the metro area by the time the Asian community became established here in the 1960s and 1970s. Today they are ubiquitous in Hamtramck, Canton and the Northern suburbs, while West African, North African, and Bosnian cuisine are joining the mix in Detroit. It
is often through these ethnic food establishments that non-Muslim Detroiters first encounter and come to appreciate their Muslim neighbors.
This display highlights some of the pioneering food businesses in Dearborn, like Uncle Sam’s and Al Ameer’s Restaurants, the very iconic Shatila bakery, and Berry and Sons Halal Meats. It also explores the spread of halal food options throughout the region. When it opened in the 1970s in the Eastern Market, Saad Wholesale Meats quickly became a meeting place for the highly diverse Muslim communities of Detroit. Today, they are just
as likely to meet in Hamtramck, where the variety of halal options is remarkable - Arab, South Asian, African American, Eastern European, and more. In recent years, halal food has also been introduced by mainstream vendors like KFC and Walmart in the suburbs, and by high end establishments like Saffron De Twah and Roast in Detroit.