It’s dinnertime at Dearborn Meat Market, and the place is packed. Customers quickly fill up the six tables in the back of the restaurant, the space so limited that someone can touch elbows with another person at the next table. At the front of the room, an employee is overseeing a massive grill; the aromas of beef and chicken are filling the air.
For those who couldn't grab a seat at one of the tables, they can easily walk through the tiny kitchen and icebox to the front of the store, where a small countertop is planted against the wall. That space is small too, as the meat display case, the butcher’s counter, and cash register take up most of the room.
Manager Abe Saad says that despite the market’s small size, he does not plan to expand.
“We like to keep the small hole-in-the-wall type of vibe,” he says. “We would rather have a person sit and eat with a lot of people next to them than sit in a big place all alone. When it's more crunched up, everyone feels like family.”
Located on the city’s east side, Dearborn Meat Market opened in 2007. The owner is Saad’s father, Sam Saad. The family is not new to running a business, as Sam was the owner of Saad Brothers Supermarket from 1974 until 2000.
The market and restaurant menus are mixes of Middle Eastern and American favorites. The restaurant side features beef kabobs, beef kafta (ground beef kabobs with parsley and onions), chicken tawook (chicken kabobs), and beef makanek sausage. Organ meats are also offered, such as beef liver, kidney, and heart. The market side features all of these items, plus burger patties and steaks. Both sections provide sides such as hummus, baba ghannouj, and parsley salad. Saad says the beef kabob and kafta are the most popular meats.
Dearborn Meat Market buys all of its food locally. Saad says they hand slaughter about four cows per week in Minden City, a village in the thumb region of the state. The next step in the process is skinning the meat, then deboning it and putting it in a refrigerator. Then an inspector from the United States Department of Agriculture comes out to make sure the meat is safe for consumption.
Later that day, a semi truck picks up the meat and takes it to the market, where Sam Saad puts the meat through a grinder and debones it again. He then cuts the meat into pieces to be skewered, and seasons it. Saad says it takes about five to seven minutes for beef to be cooked on the grill, while chicken takes a little longer at nine to 10 minutes.
Saad first took the role of manager in 2013. Some of his responsibilities include overseeing employees and customers, buying drinks, food, and other items needed for the shop, as well as social media management. The market and restaurant has gained a large following on Instagram, with over 11,000 followers.
Saad has even used his social media skills to help small businesses in Dearborn and Dearborn Heights. He has assisted in managing social media accounts for La Fork, Big Al’s Pizzeria, Signature Hookah Lounge, and Fahs Surgical Services. He says the combination of social media and word of mouth has helped Dearborn Meat Market “blow up” in the past four years. On average, the market serves about 100 to 200 customers a day.
In addition to the locals, people from as far as Florida, Arizona, and California have eaten at the restaurant. Saad says a biomedical engineer from California comes to visit every time he has a meeting near Michigan.
“When he has a meeting in Ohio, he’ll go to the meeting, fly to Michigan, eat here, and then fly back to California.”
Saad said he and his father have talked about opening a second location in downtown Detroit, but a plan has not yet been made.
In the meantime, the two of them, plus their six employees, are busy helming the Dearborn shop. With the market open seven days a week, Saad and his father wake up at 6 am every day to prepare for the market’s opening at 10 am. They stay on at the market after closing hours at 6 pm, leaving around 7 pm, or even 8 pm.
“It’s hard work,” says Saad, “and I believe that’s the reason why it pays off.”
Dearborn Meat Market is located at 7721 Schaefer Rd. Follow them on Instagram here.