Welcomed by shelves laden with a vast selection of ambrosial, foreign and local produce along with boxes and crates labeled in languages from Cyrillic to Urdu, shoppers quickly realize that Real Produce International Market is not the average grocery store. Vibrant chatter fills the market as customers — distanced and sporting their masks — go about their shopping.

Located at the College Terrace Center on 501 Oxford Ave., Real Produce International Market has caught the attention of many since its opening on Dec. 28. In addition to offering fresh produce, the family-owned grocery store carries halal meats and a variety of prepared foods for reasonable prices. Perhaps the most unique aspect of the market is the extensive selection of international products with many Middle Eastern and European items that cannot be found elsewhere in Palo Alto.

GOLDEN GOODIES — Baklava and other confectionery baked goods at the market tempt customers from afar — especially those with a sweet tooth. Photo: Tara Kothari

“There isn’t a store like ours in this area. … This is a very diverse community and to cater to this diversity, we bring different products,” Real Produce International Market CEO Khaled Taffi wrote in a message to Verde. “A lot of these are comfort foods that take them [the customers] back to their childhood. … It’s a joy to witness very often when folks just pop in here … and find something unexpected that makes them nostalgic or ecstatic.”

The Palo Alto City Council approved Taffi’s request to open the market on Nov. 16, making Real Produce International Market the third grocer to open at the location since the closures of College Terrace Market and Khoury’s Market. The excitement that followed the announcement of a new market opening was palpable as many residents eagerly awaited the empty space to be filled.

“It’s a joy to witness very often when folks just pop in here … and find something unexpected” that makes them nostalgic or ecstatic.”

— Khaled Taffi, CEO of Real Produce Market

“A lot of the customers really enjoy the different foods … it’s just very convenient for them because the prices are really good,” Paly senior and Real Produce International Market employee Esme Villalobos said. “It’s a very open place to shop at … and the owners are really sweet.”

Real Produce International Market also carries a multitude of items to cater to those who celebrate festivities such as Nowruz, Ramadan and Passover, as well as to those who are simply exploring their diverse offerings.

“Nothing brings people together like food does, and we are happy to be the place for that,” Taffi wrote. “We also have cooking enthusiasts come in looking for ingredients they have never cooked with but would like to try … Ottolenghi’s recipes seem to be particularly popular.”

FRESH FROM THE FARM — Vibrant and delectable fresh produce fill the shelves throughout the market. “Our goal is to provide high-quality goods at reasonable prices and a customer experience that keeps bringing you back,”  Taffi wrote. Photo: Tara Kothari

While the market offers locally sourced seasonal and organic products, foreign goods are imported from a variety of countries ranging from Peru to Saudi Arabia.

“We bring different products such as Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Persian, East European, Indian, Turkish … some produce is also sourced from other countries like Mexico, Chile, etc.,” Taffi wrote. 

The market’s family atmosphere has drawn customers in since their opening. Taffi hopes to foster a strong sense of community through the market.

“We are so grateful for the opportunity to serve this community and hope to become a ‘Real’ member of the neighborhood for years to come,” Taffi wrote.

Below are some of the products Verde tried at Real Produce International Market.

Ziyad Iraqi Style Date Syrup ($3.39)

A staple of Iraqi cuisine, dates are included in many dishes with their sweet, aromatic taste typically complemented with more savory items. For those looking for a substitute for maple syrup or honey, date syrup pairs perfectly with anything from breads to cured meats.

Sadaf Ajvar Mild Red Pepper Spread ($4.39)

A rich combination of eggplant, olive oil, red peppers and salt creates this Balkan spread with a plethora of different uses. Whether used to liven up pasta dishes or served with warm pita, the Ajvar’s polished tang is a must-have.

Real Produce International Market’s Spanakotiropita ($2.50)

The market’s deli includes a wide assortment of prepared meats, baked goods and quick bites. Among their best is the classic, yet ever so decadent spanakotiropita — Greek for “spinach-cheese pie.” The layers of flaky, crispy dough filled with crumbly feta and leafy spinach make for a perfect snack. 

Mashky Yogurt Soda ($1.99)

This beverage is for the more adventurous foodies out there. The minty, carbonated drink is a surprisingly refreshing Middle Eastern alternative for a Coke or Pepsi. Tangy and chilling, it is best accompanied with sweets or pastries.

Photos: Audrey Joachim