We went to Mr. Butch and said we need some help. He wrote a check for $250,000, no agreement, nothing written just ‘here’s a check.’ We didn’t even discuss if we were able to pay him back. He said, ‘you’ll pay me back as soon as you can.’
“God is the first person responsible for our success but a large part goes to Mr. Butch. He was a meat supplier and is known from here to Australia,” says Salem. “We caught him in his retirement phase. His wife Lila still owns Murray Avenue Kosher.”
Mr. Butch has provided the business with all their meat for over 25 years.
“Everything I know about business I learned from Mr. Butch,” says Salem. “He started selling peaches on the side of the road and now he’s a multimillionaire. His business mind is about taking care of customers and their needs.”
Which is why Salem scoffs at the notion playing in the media that Muslims and Jews aren’t getting along. “When people say Muslims and Jews can’t get along, I laugh because I know from my personal experience it’s not true. Mr. Butch came to my wedding. He stayed at a hotel so he could stay over for Sabbath on Friday and attend the wedding on Saturday. That’s how close we are.”
What he sees on the news upsets him. “Half of it is the media stepping in and amping the situation up. Most people can get along. Half our customers are Jewish. They tell us, ‘we know you aren’t Kosher but you do it right.’ They come here because they know we respect every person that comes through the door.”
Customer Stu Chaban purchases all of his meat for celebrations at Salem’s Market, including Jewish holidays like Passover. “It is the only place I will buy my meats. Everything is fresh and there are no antibiotics. The flavor of the meat is wonderful,” he says.
They are halal butchers at Salem’s which means the meats are all locally raised with no antibiotics and no hormones and the animals are humanely slaughtered.
Along with its fresh meats of lamb, beef and chicken, Salem’s is known for its house-made breads and desserts, including baclava and phyllo pastries. They’re also loved for their french fries, often mentioned in online reviews that rave about the food in general.
Salem is quick to point out that the help he’s received isn’t atypical of local Jews. “Jewish Family Service helps more Muslim families than most Muslim organizations do. I’m happy for that but in some ways I get upset. We have billion-dollar Emirs but half the Iraqi refugees are coming through Jewish Family Services.”
Pittsburgh is a city Abdullah and his family are proud to call home. His father still works at the market and grill, though not as often as he once did. He travels now and is currently on a trip back to the Middle East.
“We have a hunger to be very successful,” Salem offers. “Pittsburgh has been so black and white for years, unless you were at one of the universities. There weren’t even a lot of Spanish-speaking people. Now that’s all starting to change. People are looking for other options. We’re trying to grow with that and make this a place for everyone.”
Salem’s Market and Grill is located at 2932 Penn Avenue in the Strip and open Monday through Sunday. The market is open 9 am to 8 pm and the grill is open 11 am to 8 pm Monday through Saturday. The butcher closes an hour earlier.
On Sunday, the market is open 10 am to 6 pm and the grill is open noon to 6 pm. The butcher closes an hour before the grill. 412. 385.5141.