Saturday, May 5, 2012

Do You Remember…

Chuck’s friend from yesterday? The one who recommended 9 Roses for good Chinese food? Well, among his other suggestions was Lebanon’s Café for good Mediterranean. I am amazed at the number of high caliber Mediterranean restaurants in New Orleans.

What accounts for this? I suspect that the reasons are many. There a number of major universities—Tulane, Loyola, Xavier, University of New Orleans, and others. And where you find college students you find people looking for cheap eats and Mediterranean food can be a bargain. College students are also open to vegetarian options and most Mediterranean restaurants have multiple meatless choices. And, we have recently learned, New Orleans has a large Lebanese population.

“Why would Falafel and Hummus lovers from throughout New Orleans flock to Carrollton Avenue’s Lebanon’s Café, when there is likely to be a Middle Eastern restaurant nearer where they live or work?

“There are so many reasons… Some of our patrons say it is because
Lebanon’s has what has been described as the most beautiful dining room, a spacious, clean, and attractive space with colorful hand-painted murals under the shady oak trees of Carrollton Avenue…Others say that it is our romantic atmosphere complemented by an able, eager, and professional staff of servers that see to your every request. Our chef-owner, Hussain Sheereef, can be seen virtually every day in our dining room, greeting guests, serving food, and offering assistance” (

“It should not come as a surprise that Loyola's ‘Favorite Veggie Plate’ in New Orleans comes from Lebanon's Café, a haven for meat lovers and vegetarians alike. This Middle Eastern restaurant…serves up a mean vegetarian plate of hummus, baba ganuj, tabouleh and falafel that the rest of the table will probably try to sample—but it's up to you to let them. Luckily, the omnivores at the table will become quickly distracted when ordering one of many pleasing meat dishes like the kibby plate or gyro, made with perfectly spiced ground beef and lamb.
And with exquisite murals and decorations adorning the dinning room walls, Lebanon's will quickly become a favorite getaway within the city” (

It was past the normal lunch hour when we arrived and the restaurant was only about a third full. But this makes it easier for Chuck to take photos without drawing undo attention to himself—and me.

The space was a visual delight. One long wall is dominated by a colorful mural depicting a Middle Eastern scene that was interspersed with small fringed lamps.

On the divider next to us was a collection of hammered tea pots.

As a writer at travbuddy. com wrote:
“The dining room is spacious with lots of windows that makes for great daytime dining. When the weather is nice there are tables outside on the sidewalk as well!...During slower hours it's a seat yourself kinda place which I love. There are paintings on the walls and all kinds of fun trinkets that decorate the shelves to keep your eyes wandering while you wait.”

This time I didn’t repeat my mistake from 9 Roses and spent considerable time studying the café’s on-line menu. I could have made a meal from the appetizers alone. Among the more enticing were: Faul—mashed fava beans mixed with garlic, lemon juice, jalapeño peppers, and extra virgin olive oil; Tabouleh—finely minced parsley mixed with tomatoes, onions, and cracked wheat; Safeiheh (mini pizza)—ground lamb, ground beef, and tomatoes with spices baked on a pita bread; Zaater Bread—oregano, sesame seeds, and sumac with olive oil baked on pita bread; and, of course my favorite, Falafel—seasoned ground chickpeas with onion, parsley, and garlic.

I finally decided to order just one—the Zaater Bread. “Behold the
strangeness of za’atar. Za’atar is an herb. Sorry—It’s not a specific herb, but one of any number of herbs in the hyssop family. Scratch that: it’s a combination of herbs. But wait, sometimes there are sesame seeds. Actually, it’s a paste made with some type or type of herbs, sesame seeds, and lots of olive oil. Confused? Join the club. In reality, za’atar is all of these things” (

However you describe Zaater (or Za’atar), this was delicious. Chuck asked if he could have one of the four wedges—he ended up eating two. That’s how good it was.

For my entrée, I chose the falafel plate with hummus and salad. Let’s start with the hummus. Marvelous. It came with a pool of olive oil
and lemon juice in the center to be mixed with the chickpea and tahini puree. The lemon gave the hummus the brightness that was lacking in the hummus at both Babylon Café and Courtyard Grill. The salad was composed of romaine, baby greens (including my favorite arugula), tomatoes, red onion slices, and cucumbers. And it was tossed with a light oil and lemon dressing.

And now the falafel. Double marvelous. First, they were round balls and not patties. (Remember, that’s one of my eccentricities.) They were full of parsley and lightly tasted of garlic and onions. And there was some undefined, but definitely spicy, element to the seasoning.

Now Chuck’s friend from the French Quarter Fest recommended the Lula Kabob, but hedging his bets, Chuck ordered the Combination Kabob. This included: chicken marinated in garlic, spices, and herbs;
marinated beef chunks seasoned with rosemary and spices; and the lula made with ground lamb seasoned with parsley, onions, and Lebanese spices. The cubes of meat had been removed from the skewer and tossed with a mix of marinated onions and tomatoes. All three meats were delicious. The chicken pieces were moist, the beef came medium rare, and the lula tasted like the best lamb patty ever.

We asked our server what went into the marinades and seasonings. She retired to the kitchen and came back and told us that the ingredients were “secret.” I don’t blame them. I’d probably want to keep the recipe secret myself.

Today we were in agreement. Lebanon’s Café served the best Mediterranean we’ve had in New Orleans—and maybe anywhere. This was a 5.0 Addie meal.

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

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