Nazar opened this month -- at the same time that the Pars Market opened a few blocks south on Snowden River Parkway -- in the Columbia space that used to house Caezar International Market (then called Sizar's). Nazar completely renovated the space, making it bright and airy.
Now, the space is filling with all kinds of Middle Eastern food -- bulgar, beans, spices, olives, etc. If you're interested in food, this is a fun place to walk the shelves. Many of the items are Turkish, which makes the selection differ from Caezar and Pars, which sell all kinds of food but have lots of Iranian offerings. I'm not sophisticated enough to identify all the difference or all opportunities.
Nazar sets itself apart from most small ethnic groceries by having basic produce, including some nice zucchini and fresh cilantro that I used in chili last week, and a variety of halal meat. At the start, they didn't have the butcher like Columbia Halal Meat or Caezar's, but the freezer and the fridge have a variety. Sour cherry nectar drink. Frozen ribeye and filets. Frozen chicken. Halal chicken hot dogs. Soujouk (great in scrambled eggs). Three kinds of halal beef mortadella. Three? I'd love to know why this little store has three varieties of mortadella.
(Update: Nazar made some changes. They cut back on the produce, but they added a butcher that looks a lot like Columbia Halal Meat or Caezar. It's an option for goat, lamb, chicken hearts, and many other cuts that you won't find in a supermarket case. You need to try the ground lamb or another meat for kabobs.)
In addition, Nazar sells frozen pastry leaves. Some in a rectangle and a Yoruk brand in triangles. I'm sure those would be key to making some authentic Middle Eastern dishes. But they could also be an interesting tool in the hands of a creative chef. What could you wrap up and fry?
Since you have eaten your meal, you get your dessert, and the dessert is reason enough to drive over to Nazar. These guys had a half-dozen varieties of fresh baklava on display each time that I visited, including pistachio, "double pistachio" and a long thin variation that I think was called burma. (Or maybe kadayifi. I got different answers on different trips.) Each variety was superb -- a fresh crunch to the pastry, a thick honey flavor, sweet nuts. The burma and a variation called saragi burma have a shredded pastry instead of the thin layers of baklava. If anything, that's my favorite.
The guy who cuts my hair -- shout out to Rafet's Hair Salon in Arundel Mills -- says this is the best baklava around. Before his friends opened Nazar, Tim and other Turkish families would pool together to buy this baklava wholesale from New Jersey. But then, Tim is friends with the owners of Nazar. You can't just rely on his say, can you? Don't you think you need to test yourself? Don't you need some baklava today? Or now?
If you shop at Nazar, I would love to know what you buy. I have tried a few items, but I am sure there are some convenience foods for a weeknight and also the basics to learn some Middle Eastern food.
(Update: There are terrific comments below, including a detailed one about learning Turkish food and another about halal cuts of beef. There are also a series that I think are fake and appear to be someone trying to promote Pars Market. If Hasan, Suat or William Smith are real people, then they're welcome to email me directly. For now, I assume they're part of a fake campaign here and on some other posts.)
(Update II: There are some anonymous comments below from someone who appears quite reasonable and knowledgeable about this kind of food. I loved the baklava, but the commentor says that the best were just average. You can still taste-test the baklava. Not such a bad afternoon. I'd love other thoughts.)
Nazar Produce Market
6955 Oakland Mills Road, Ste A
Columbia, MD 21045
NEAR: Nazar is in the same store that used to be Sizar's. It's just off Oakland Mills Road on the west of Snowden River Parkway. From Rte 175, drive south on Snowden and turn right at the traffic light on Oakland Mills. Then take the first right into the shopping area. Nazar is on the right on the ground level. Look across the parking lot for Bon Fresco.