WILL SHILLING PHOTO

Middle East

What to expect: If the sign touts halal meats, it's a good bet the store caters to the Islamic community. Halal meats have been slaughtered following traditional Islamic guidelines (the principle is similar to kosher meats for Jews). At these counters, you'll find things like lamb, beef, goat and chicken. The rest of the selection veers toward what you'd find in a typical Mediterranean market, with hummus, falafel and pitted dates. A popular Islamic brand is Al Haloub Cow, which makes Spam-like canned meats as well as butter ghees and cheeses.

Plaza Internationale

3120 Olentangy River Rd., Clintonville

614-262-1488

This grocery, attached to a new Al Pacino's Pizza restaurant, carries products from Greece and India too, but the great halal meat counter and extensive Al-Haloub Cow selection cements it as a reliable Middle Eastern stop. You'll find good buys in the bulk section, where you can pick up lentils, dry chickpeas, couscous, bulgher and semolina by the pound. For a fun souvenir, pick up the mendhi or henna hand-decoration inks or a tube of the clove-flavored toothpaste.

Yasmin International Market

5444 Cleveland Ave., North Side

614-895-8320

A best bet for Middle-Eastern-themed gifts. The right side of this Islamic grocery store carries a good selection of housewares, like huge 40-quart stock pots, special couscous cookers, stainless steel kebab skewers and wooden mortar and pestle sets. There's also a decent variety of hookahs, as well as traditional head scarves and copies of the Quran.

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