Jump to content
LizH

Lebanese Taverna, Eleven Area Locations - The Abi-Najm Family's Restaurants, Cafes, and Market

Recommended Posts

OK, I couldn't find a listing for this restaurant, so here it goes...

I have tended to only go to the take out place in Arlington and the new "cafe" in Silver Spring recently, but Friday I found myself at the Lebanese Taverna in Woodly Park.

I used to go here all the time in years past, so when were were looking for a quick bite to eat, we thought we would give it a try. I would say the food was ok, but not as good as I remembered.

I think ultimately knowing you could go to Zatinya and have similar food, but prepared in a more inspired way, you would pick Zatinya. We ordered a bunch of the mezza. Some items were fine (the Kibbeh and hommus), one item was very good (sharaht ghanam- which was sliced lamb), and others were average to not very good (the lamb kabob appetizer was terrible, the pieces were so fatty my piece was impossible to eat as it was all fat).

I know that its location near the hotels means that there are many tourists, but I think they may have dumbed down some of the food for them. I used to remember this restaurant as a fun and interesting place to go. I still like the take away in Silver Spring, but if I want to sit down and eat, Zatinya is the winner, with better food and atmosphere. I wonder if they are successful with the 100 King restaurant in Alexandria, they will go back to to Woodly Park, and give it a much needed update.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Has this entire chain jumped the shark, or does the Silver Spring location just really really suck? Emma asked to go today for lunch and it was awful. The hummous tasted old, and instead of a dusting of sumac it was sprinkled with tasteless paprika. Kafta Harra (spiced beef patties) had been cooked until every bit of moisture was gone, and the salad looked and tasted as if it had been dressed at 7am and left to sit. It was so mediocre I didn't even bother to take our leftovers home.

The Rockville location used to be our go-to for a quick takeout dinner. It wasn't fabulous, but reliable, inexpensive, and reasonably good for the kids. The last couple times we went it was starting to slip - dried out chicken shawarma, gristly lamb, etc. Too bad.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My last visit to Tyson's a few months back was an improvement over my last two visits. It seems to be a bit up and down - my guess is that turnover in who is running thes kitchen makes a difference at this type of place as much as the places where we know the names of the chefs.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The Rockville location used to be our go-to for a quick takeout dinner. It wasn't fabulous, but reliable, inexpensive, and reasonably good for the kids. The last couple times we went it was starting to slip - dried out chicken shawarma, gristly lamb, etc. Too bad.

Interesting. I've found the Rockville location reliable only for felafel. When I start to venture away from the felafel, I have been woefully disappointed.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Has this entire chain jumped the shark, or does the Silver Spring location just really really suck? Emma asked to go today for lunch and it was awful. The hummous tasted old, and instead of a dusting of sumac it was sprinkled with tasteless paprika. Kafta Harra (spiced beef patties) had been cooked until every bit of moisture was gone, and the salad looked and tasted as if it had been dressed at 7am and left to sit. It was so mediocre I didn't even bother to take our leftovers home.

The Rockville location used to be our go-to for a quick takeout dinner. It wasn't fabulous, but reliable, inexpensive, and reasonably good for the kids. The last couple times we went it was starting to slip - dried out chicken shawarma, gristly lamb, etc. Too bad.

Beth and I used to get takeout from the SS location pretty frequently but haven't gone since Moby's opened. Everything is just, I don't know, blah. Which is not a good sign for Lebanese. The specials are still decent sometimes, I have had a few good tagines and some good soup but everything else is extremely underwhelming. I like the hummus we get from Giant better than the stuff they use.

My biggest issue though has been with the overcooking of meats. THis is my biggest pet peeve with a lot of the ethnic places, they just torch the meats until it is like eating jerky. Last time we got food there I was covering my chicken with BBQ sauce (after I quickly ran out of yogurt sauce) just to get enough moisture to make it chew- and swallowable. I figured that is just normal with Middle eastern takeout until I had Moby's. Their meat has been consistently very juicy. Until I start hearing consistent positive comments about Leb. Taverna I am completely loyal to Moby's for my takeout needs.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

On Saturday, I had a chance to sample the LT cafe in Silver Spring (after having been numerous time to the one in Rockville years ago and a few times to the Woodley location in the past year) and I found it to be pretty good. Some dishes were excellent, some were ok, and a few were duds. I recommend sticking with the mezze. We had the Lebanese Feast - 12 mezze (almost everything in that section of the menu). This is a huge amount of food that provided enough for 4 with leftovers for 2 lunches for me. Here is my rundown:

Great:

M'Saka - eggplant and chick peas baked with tomatoes, onions and garlic - very nice combo of flavors, this salad was the first to go.

Shakshouky - eggplant with garlic, scallion, tomato and pomegranate molasses - very good and different from the m'saka - it had an unexpected sweetness to it. One of the more unusual choices.

Kibbeh - very tasty crushed wheat shells filled with spiced ground beef. and lamb. This was a stand out and not just because it was one of the few beef dishes we had that wasn't bland.

Tabouleh - heavier on the parsley and garlic and a lot less bulgur wheat than usual. It was really good - but only for garlic lovers.

Good:

Fatayer - mini pastries filled with spinach (I heard good but didn't get a taste), cheese (very tasty), and beef (blah - bland, the pastry was its only redeeming quality). If not for the beef one, probably be in the best category

Hummus - very good traditional hummus

Baba Ghanouj - not too sweet and not too smoky

Lebanese salad - typical but tasty with lots of flavor in the vinagrette and fresh veggies. Maybe a tad over dressed.

Yogurt salad - very similar to greek tzatiki but with less tanginess.

So-So:

Felafel - I thought they were kind of tasteless and bland. Everyone else thought they had a bit of a kick and enjoyed them. My standard is closer to Amsterdam Felafelshop though where they come out hot and fresh.

Grape Leaves - weak. Not any flavor in the rice mixture.

We also got overzealous in our ordering and got a beef/lamb schwarma sandwich and chicken kabob. The schwarma was not good at all. The meat was cooked to death and flavorless. The accompanying garlic paste (which is so garlicky it is spicy - which I liked) couldn't even revive it. The chicken kabob was good though - nice grilled flavor to the meat and it comes with what appears to be ketchup but is actually a light tomato sauce. Rice and salad on the side were ok.

Overall, I'd give it a B+. I wouldn't travel out of my way for this food unless I had a kibbeh craving, but it was a good meal for a very good price $25 for the feast. They also have smaller mezze/entree combos which would be a steal and probably a more manageable portion. Too bad the Woodley location doesn't offer mezze combos or sampler.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Lebanese Taverna at Pentagon Row for an outdoor lunch yesterday. We just went with some of our usual mezze choices:

Camel wings (a little oilier than usual)

Shrimp Arak - a generous portion with a sauce that is perfect for soaking up with the puffy bread accompanying the meal

Makdous - small eggplant stuffed with ground meat - cold, tangy, and one of my favorites

Hommos bel Shwarma - the meat was a little dry. The hommos is always tasty.

Fattoosh salad - hard to screw this up, though it had a bit too much dressing

Nothing stellar, but good for grazing on a beautiful, sunny day.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Camel wings (a little oilier than usual)

Are those deep-fried cigarettes? I've been waiting my whole life for those.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Arlington Lebanese Taverna market isn't what it used to be, but it's still good, and continues to do some things extremely well.

The Fatayer ($1.10) are made with either cheese (in a crescent) or spinach (in a triangle), and both have always been personal favorites. They've developed a yeastier aroma than they used to have, but that's not bad, just different.

Their Baba Ghanoug ($6.49 a pound) is as good as anyones, a coarsely pureed baked eggplant, blended with tahini, lemon juice and garlic. I prefer this to their hummus, which isn't bad, but this is better.

Kabis (picked turnips, $2.99 a pound) always make a platter seem better, even if they've been sitting around all day.

Lebanese Mousaka ($6.49 a pound) is a different animal than the Greek version, more of a ratatouille with eggplant, chickpeas, onions and spices in a tomato sauce, and Lebanse Taverna Market's has always been very good (in general, wet, soupy, pureed things here tend to be standouts).

The Stuffed Tomatoes ($5.99 a pound) were beautiful as always, but very tired as you might imagine. Stuffed with rice and vegetables, I think their stuffed green peppers can better tolerate extended time sitting around inside the deli counter.

I'm weary of the industrial pita and lavash this town has to offer. King of Pita sells a lot of pre-packaged bread, but I don't see how pita can be much worse than this.

I believe this market is a hub for Lebanese Taverna's catering operations (there's often a van out front), so it's always well-staffed, and the service is very efficient - they do quite a bit of volume here. The food here isn't cheap, but if you're grabbing something to go, you can do a lot worse than this.

Cheers,

Rocks.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I'm weary of the industrial pita and lavash this town has to offer. King of Pita sells a lot of pre-packaged bread, but I don't see how pita can be much worse than this.

If you ask them at the counter they will sell you packages of frozen Kronos pitas from the back. I believe this is what they use for their wraps. 5 minutes in a 400 degree oven at home and they become pretty good. The King of Pita stuff in the front of the store is fairly tasteless.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Rockville café menu has always had its hits and misses on a per-item basis, but lately I haven't been loving it as much as before. The shwarma and its variants still make me very happy (really anything there involving chicken and garlic), but their once-very-good falafel sandwich seems to have taken a big turn downhill: the falafel too large to have a decent crust-to-interior ratio, somewhat too dense (although mercifully not actually pasty), and today rather dull in the flavor department other than an abundance of salt. YMMV.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I find that an excellent combination for a good meal is to head way down Lee Hwy into Falls Church to hit the Lebanese Butchershop for a fine assortment of marinated meats and then grab your sides at the Lebanese Taverna Cafe on the way back home. It only takes 10 minutes to cook up the meat on the grill and you solve the problem of buying expensive overcooked meat at LT.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
It only takes 10 minutes to cook up the meat on the grill and you solve the problem of buying expensive overcooked meat at LT.

You can buy raw chicken, beef, and lamb kabobs at LT. They're on the far-left side of the counter.

Cheers,

Rocks.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

These reviews are generally poor. I'm disappointed. I used to go to the original in Arlington before it expanded to include the place next door. The Abi-Najm family was the role model of the American success story -- escape a war-torn country and come here to open a restaurant, and the next thing you know, it's a multi-million-dollar enterprise. I enjoyed their food through the '80s, but then I moved farther out into the suburbs and rarely get to a Lebanese Taverna anymore. I was at Tysons a few months ago and it was passable, but it was not the old Lebanese Taverna.

My Board name should indicate that I have an affinity for Middle Eastern food. There are good examples all around us -- Lebanese Butcher in Falls Church, Mediterranean Gourmet Market in Franconia -- but the original Lebanese Taverna was one of the best in the area. Maybe there was too much success or the family grew up and scattered, but it sounds like it's no longer what it was....

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We are never going to LT again, at least not the Silver Spring location. Kafta was dried out and barely warm, grape leaves were tough, the chicken kabob was overcooked to the point of being hard to chew, the hummus was tasteless, and the rice was musty and rancid tasting. Never again. It's moved from "mediocre" to "nasty rip-off."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
We are never going to LT again, at least not the Silver Spring location. Kafta was dried out and barely warm, grape leaves were tough, the chicken kabob was overcooked to the point of being hard to chew, the hummus was tasteless, and the rice was musty and rancid tasting. Never again. It's moved from "mediocre" to "nasty rip-off."

I have only really enjoyed the market on Old Dominion in Arlington. The kabobs I buy raw and cook myself. They always come out just right. :( My youngest lives on the hummos. It is okay at this location, imho.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
We are never going to LT again, at least not the Silver Spring location.

Never say never...Emma and I dropped in for an early dinner tonight (her request) while the boys were out. I was delighted to see that the older woman who was a fixture at the Rockville location was in Silver Spring tonight. I am blanking on her name but she has been serving Emma hummus since my girl was old enough to chew. :lol: And the food was a big turnaround - tender kibbeh, good hummus, excellent grape leaves, and m'saka was very flavorful and the eggplant not at all mushy.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It had been while since I"d been to the Washington Blvd LebTav— long enough for all the people who remembered why I used to get free dessert to have scattered— but it just meant we made new friends. Everything we had tonight hit the spot: kafta harra, sujuk, labneh, hummus and pine nuts, kibbeh, fatteh bel djaje, falafel. And then there was the dessert that I've never had before nor got the name of, which was essentially deep-fried honey doughnuts served with panna cotta.

I am going to explode. Oh My God.

It's not haute cuisine. But it was a wonderfully nummy and leisurely meal.

Yes, definitely going to explode.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Never say never...Emma and I dropped in for an early dinner tonight (her request) while the boys were out. I was delighted to see that the older woman who was a fixture at the Rockville location was in Silver Spring tonight. I am blanking on her name but she has been serving Emma hummus since my girl was old enough to chew. :D And the food was a big turnaround - tender kibbeh, good hummus, excellent grape leaves, and m'saka was very flavorful and the eggplant not at all mushy.

Based on your report, I have to give it a try. Am I correct that they serve beer and wine? That wasn't the case when they opened.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Had mezze at the Tysons 2 location yesterday, and it was surprisingly good. The first thing I noticed was the number of offerings on the menu. This kitchen is ambitious, and it pulled off our choices very well.

Kibbee Nayeh -- notwithstanding my board name, a very credible rendition, nicely comforting and worth ordering over and over again.

Tabbouleh -- fresh and tasty, loaded with parsley and lemon.

Hummos Special -- one of my favorite versions, covered with meat and almonds.

Bread -- replaced every few minutes to make sure the basket was fresh and warm.

Wine -- the wine list included quite a few from Lebanon, which isn't necessarily a good thing, but certainly adds to the geographic theme.

Among all the chain choices in Tysons 2, this place has to rank near the top.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just returned from lunch at the Westover (original) branch in Arlington. The above post on Tysons 2 mirrored our experience perfectly. Service was excellent and friendly, mezzes were delicious and plentiful.

Kibbeh, hummos (with pine nuts), house salad, tabouleh, another veg...all terrific for a mid-July meal. Plenty of refills on our iced tea and fresh baked pita bread and the staff was eager to please.

Today reminded me how much I missed Taverna Westover and how it strives to provide a pleasant and fresh tasting alternative to the drab choices at lunch. I need to get back more often and enjoy their chicken shwarma sandwich!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It had been while since I"d been to the Washington Blvd LebTav— long enough for all the people who remembered why I used to get free dessert to have scattered— but it just meant we made new friends. Everything we had tonight hit the spot: kafta harra, sujuk, labneh, hummus and pine nuts, kibbeh, fatteh bel djaje, falafel. And then there was the dessert that I've never had before nor got the name of, which was essentially deep-fried honey doughnuts served with panna cotta.

I am going to explode. Oh My God.

It's not haute cuisine. But it was a wonderfully nummy and leisurely meal.

Yes, definitely going to explode.

i have to second that. wonderfully nummy, and so good for vegetarians or, if you go to the pentagon city location, when you need a reasonably "nice" setting for an inexpensive meal.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The food is fresh, flavorful, and fairly priced. As are the wines and mixed drinks. We went to the Bethesda location a few months ago and dinner for four was $120 with a round of cocktails, two bottles of wine, and enough food for everyone to be sated.

Some may quibble whether it's the best representation of Lebanese cuisine, I personally couldn't tell. However, if I am looking for a nice, fun meal, consistently executed, where I can eat and drink well, that's not going to cost me a ton, I'll head to an LT.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

All these positive comments about Lebanese Taverna gave me a craving for it, so I stopped by the original location today for lunch and picked up a Hommos Special ($7), with spiced ground meat, pine nuts, and olive oil. Man, this is an excellent carryout lunch - a good-sized portion of the hommos, served with four pieces of homemade pita (two of them whole wheat, two of them white flour). Thanks for the prompting!

In case anyone's interested, the manager confirmed that they'll serve both the Kibbeh Nayeh and Habra Nayeh to go (evenings only) - not all places will do this as a carryout order.

Cheers,

Rocks.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In case anyone's interested, the manager confirmed that they'll serve both the Kibbeh Nayeh and Habra Nayeh to go (evenings only) - not all places will do this as a carryout order.

Wow, I've only had habra nayeh, or هبرة نيّة, at Lebanese Butcher on rare occasions....is it possible to change my board name...?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...