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Downtown Deli Shuns Cigarettes and Beer in Favor of Gourmet Fare

By Chelsia Rose Marcius | October 5, 2012 6:58am | Updated on October 5, 2012 8:35am

CIVIC CENTER — A corner deli steps from the NYPD's headquarters is taking an unusual tack by shunning beer and cigarettes in favor of dishing out gourmet food including a hearty hero named "The Felony."

"We don't sell cigarettes, we don't sell beer, we don't sell alcohol," said, Saleh Sulaiman, 30, of Coney Island, one of the four owners of the family operated Manny's Gourmet, which opened late last month at 27 St. James Pl.

"We don't want to attract the nightlife crowd," Sulaiman said. "We just want to make good food," 

He said the 800-square-foot space might be the size of a traditional deli or bodega and sell similar fare, but offers something different than the surrounding neighborhood stores.

Manny's offers an assortment of menu options cooked on a charcoal grill, from pancakes to paninis to specialty sandwiches such as the "The Felony" — a meat-heavy hero with melted mozzarella. 

Other items include Falafel and other Yemeni-style cuisine, a nod to the owners' ethnic background. 

Manny's is a family-owned restaurant, and was named in honor of his family, Sulaiman said.

"Manny's is our family nickname. We took the last few letters of our last name —man—and added an "ny," Saleh Sulaiman said.

Daphne Mcdermott, 69, of Flatbush, a first time customer at Manny's, said she was pleased with the lunch service she received. 

"They're trying to do something good here and I think it's excellent," said Mcdermott, who works in the area. "I got good service and I did not have to wait in line. It was quick and easy."

Ahmed Sulaiman, 23, of Bensonhurst, a manager at Manny's, said the store location was desirable due to the proximity to downtown. 

"We're right next to a school, One Police Plaza, all of these buildings," he said. "At 5:30 a.m. it starts getting very busy, but we hit our peak at 7 a.m."

Sulaiman said despite booming business, he is not looking to eat into other people's customer base. 

"We wish everybody makes money," he said. "This guy on the corner, we've known him for a long time. This bodega on the corner, nice guy. Very nice people. But it's sort of a different business, he has his own thing. He sells beer, he sells cigarettes, and he depends more on his cigarettes and beer for money."

The family has drawn upon previous experience in the food business for guidance, Saleh Sulaiman said. They currently own and operate two restaurants in Brooklyn Heights, Mocha Hookah and Hadramout Restaurant, have previously owned another deli. 

Manny's is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The store offers free delivery from 7 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.