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


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Oh good to know! I always had thought that za'atar was Arabic for sumac.

Close....it's a blend of sumac, thyme, salt and sesame seeds, with or without any of those ingredients, and with the occasional additions of coriander, basil, fennel seed, savory and other herbs and spices. A Palestinian version even has caraway seeds. As I said, I like the Jordanian version without sesame seeds, but there are many versions out there.

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We visited the Woodley Park location last night. The entire interior has been redone--I'm not sure when exactly, but I think some time last year.

...

For those who remember the interior of the Woodley Park location, I think you'll be very pleasantly surprised. I could hardly believe this was the same room. The room is a big, high ceilinged open space with a long bar by the hostess station at the front. Booths line the walls and the tables on the floor are nicely spaced, which is lovely--I always felt cramped in the old configuration.

Have been here too many times to count but not in the past several months. I'm trying to envision the change. There was a bar on the right side upon entering I think (?). So now it's on the left side? And the booths would be new if in that main front room since that was always all tables. Sounds like there may be fewer tables though, too? That's how they achieved the better spacing? Is the kitchen still partly open at the rear of the big room?

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I think there are fewer tables, although they may have just achieved more space by adding booths. The tables in the center of the room are more widely spaced, though. I don't know if it's objectively quieter (I don't carry a decibel measure with me!) but you can't hear the conversations of other patrons, which often bugs me more than loud ambient noise. (I dine with a small kid. A decent buzz of ambient noise is a plus, in my book--if my kid is a bit loud, it doesn't bug other people so much.)

There's a private room in back, I think--and no open kitchen from the main dining room.

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I think there are fewer tables, although they may have just achieved more space by adding booths. The tables in the center of the room are more widely spaced, though. I don't know if it's objectively quieter (I don't carry a decibel measure with me!) but you can't hear the conversations of other patrons, which often bugs me more than loud ambient noise. (I dine with a small kid. A decent buzz of ambient noise is a plus, in my book--if my kid is a bit loud, it doesn't bug other people so much.)

There's a private room in back, I think--and no open kitchen from the main dining room.

That sounds like a large-scale renovation since the kitchen was partly open so had to be walled off, the back room wasn't private and they put up a new bar. My last 5 or so visits to LT were all Bethesda and Tysons. Will have to check this out soon. Thank you!

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The Bethesda location has a Groupon.

[All the more reason to break out the lovable quirk called Multiple Locations into the individual neighborhoods categories....]

LT has to be in the top 5% of most frequent discount coupon providers.  I feel like they've offered them at least 7 or 8 times in the past couple of years.  Would be really interesting to understand why/how they feel they've been a good propellant for the business when the opposite has been true for so man other places nationwide.

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The Tysons Galleria Lebanese Taverna is now officially my second-favorite outpost, after the original in Arlington. Had lunch there today and grabbed a Kibbeh Nayeh (natch!) and the Hummus Trio. That Kibbeh Nayeh was one of the better renditions I've had here, not quite up to Mount of Lebanon standard, but pretty gosh darned good. The Hummus Trio was one topped with meat, one topped with spicy pepper, and one topped with shaved chicken shwarma, or so it appeared. I haven't had that last one before, and it was good, but not better than the other two. Through in a basket of bread and I'm stuffed to the point where dinner is an unlikely event this evening.

[While glancing at the back of the menu, I noticed an Arak Service with three different Araks, and I also noticed the wine list has the most comprehensive listing of Lebanese wines in our area. It may be worth pointing out that the French occupied what is now Lebanon from the end of WWI to the middle of WWII, so they may have some decent wine pedigree.]

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I also miss Arax....but the original Lebanese Taverna is right there, and has been since 1979. It's the flagship of the Lebanese Taverna enterprise, and still serves out the finest of the LT's fare. Such a shame when the WaPo's weekly magazine did it's new feature of breaking down a neighborhood this past week on Westover, and neglected the venerable Lebanese Taverna....

Man, I hate to try and quash a romance, but I wouldn't call Westover Lebanese Taverna's flagship ("original," yes; "flagship," no). Many of their offerings are now trucked in from the market near Arrowine and reheated (and these tend to be some of my favorite items - the hummus with meat, for example, or the fatayers). If you've actually eaten inside there recently, it's just not nearly as charming as it was 20 years ago, when the entire family and all of its resources, artwork, talent, heart, and soul were poured into that one, relatively modest building (which back then loomed so much larger than it does now). This is why I still love Layalina - that mom-n-pop feels the opposite of sterile (in the best possible sense). No, the food isn't all that great, but it's got soul coming out its ears. Same reason I loved Arax Cafe, actually.

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Man, I hate to try and quash a romance, but I wouldn't call Westover Lebanese Taverna's flagship ("original," yes; "flagship," no). Many of their offerings are now trucked in from the market near Arrowine and reheated (and these tend to be some of my favorite items - the hummus with meat, for example, or the fatayers).

Huh. That makes sense to me and I agree with Don. The couple of times I've swung by the Westover location I haven't been impressed but I always liked the carryout more that I got from the one near Arrowine.

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Man, I hate to try and quash a romance, but I wouldn't call Westover Lebanese Taverna's flagship ("original," yes; "flagship," no). Many of their offerings are now trucked in from the market near Arrowine and reheated (and these tend to be some of my favorite items - the hummus with meat, for example, or the fatayers). If you've actually eaten inside there recently, it's just not nearly as charming as it was 20 years ago, when the entire family and all of its resources, artwork, talent, heart, and soul were poured into that one, relatively modest building (which back then loomed so much larger than it does now). This is why I still love Layalina - that mom-n-pop feels the opposite of sterile (in the best possible sense). No, the food isn't all that great, but it's got soul coming out its ears. Same reason I loved Arax Cafe, actually.

Good points all. I loved the original Lebanese Taverna. I started going there around 1980, and I got loud and warm greetings whenever I walked in. To me, there's a bit of nostalgia there, but there's also a bit of nice political history. The abi-Najm family fled a horrible civil war in Lebanon and came to this country to live the American Dream. They made it happen, and that success story is a nice one.

I loved Layalina, until another political hiccup laid waste to my romance. Sam and Rima tend to cowtow to the Syrian political leadership under one of the world's most brutal dictators, Bishar al-Assad, who vengefully tortures and murders Syrians who committed no crime other than to wish him deposed. Sam and Rima needed the support of the Syrian Embassy and its diplomats. Thankfully, the Syrian Embassy closed in March, so maybe Layalina will return to my good graces.

Politics and food are not good bedfellows. But with Lebanese Taverna, the outcome was very good, and with Lyalina, the outcomes is to be determined.

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I loved Layalina, until another political hiccup laid waste to my romance. Sam and Rima tend to cowtow to the Syrian political leadership under one of the world's most brutal dictators, Bishar al-Assad, who vengefully tortures and murders Syrians who committed no crime other than to wish him deposed. Sam and Rima needed the support of the Syrian Embassy and its diplomats. Thankfully, the Syrian Embassy closed in March, so maybe Layalina will return to my good graces.

Can you expand on that a little?

Why would they have to support Assad in Syria to run a restaurant in VA?  Do the embassy diplomats bring in so much business that they couldn't survive without them?

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I don't prefer the location in Westover.  I really like the Market and go there a lot, although they recently changed their menu slightly.  It's still good, but I do think it was a tiny bit better, it has been a little hectic the past couple times I have been in there.  I do think the Tysons location is one of the better, not sure why.

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Personally, I prefer Westover.  Had lunch there yesterday - service great, mixed kabob grill delicious, chicken farooq a tasty & huge platter.  I want to share here a current deal that some may want to look into.

I was in BJ's wholesale club in Falls Church last week (free trial membership) - L.T. offers two $50 gift cards for $80 - no fees/no service charges - at BJs.

So, if you are like me and enjoy various L.T.'s, this deal is a bargain = 20% off lunch or dinner with the cards.  I used one of the two cards yesterday for lunch and there was absolutely no problem doing so.

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Personally, I prefer Westover.  Had lunch there yesterday - service great, mixed kabob grill delicious, chicken farooq a tasty & huge platter.  I want to share here a current deal that some may want to look into.

I was in BJ's wholesale club in Falls Church last week (free trial membership) - L.T. offers two $50 gift cards for $80 - no fees/no service charges - at BJs.

So, if you are like me and enjoy various L.T.'s, this deal is a bargain = 20% off lunch or dinner with the cards.  I used one of the two cards yesterday for lunch and there was absolutely no problem doing so.

 

That is a really good deal!

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Soooo after an 11 hour work day to be followed by another hour of work yesterday we got dinner at the Market.  The layout is mainly the same, but a little different.  I thought the grocery was laid much nicer.  They have a couple more grab and go options at the counters too.  We got Schwarma with salad and fries.  We thought the beef and lamb in our sandwiches was really good.  The sandwich was assembled well.  I am not sure exactly all the changes in the market, but there definitely are some and the space does feel a little more open and appealing.  

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Last weekend we got a carryout feast from LT in Woodley Park/DC and everything was very good as usual: different schwarmas sandwiches with great turnip and carrot pickles on the side, baba ghanoush, hummus, fatayer b'spinach (really good as always), falafel (extra good tehini sauce and I don't really like it), and chicken kabob. I also tried something new which was very good - Ouzi with meat/rice grape leaves. A braised lamb dish on rice - super moist, tender and flavorful meat and the meat grape leaves were very good too.  Nice new addition to the rotation - especially because I love lamb ;-)

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The Leb Taverna deal has returned to BJ's after a year's absence.  At the Falls Church store today, I paid $80 for $100 value (two $50 cards).  No expiration date, no fees or surcharges, plus you can include the tip on the card balance.

20% off is a good deal for regulars & BJs offers a one day free day pass.  LT's Westover location (my favorite) is a five minute drive from the FC BJs (just down the street from the Eden Center).

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Went to the Bethesda location for a work dinner. Had good service actually. Their stuffed grape leaves are decent (but I make far better at home). The kibbeh nayyeh was perhaps the absolute weakest thing I tried. While I realize it is supposed to be minced, this meat was obviously thrown in to an industrial food processor with not much else and plopped out in to a form and served with a few tiny bits of onion on the side. The hallumi was acceptable.  I ordered a combo kebab platter - the lamb was executed well and was tasty. I ordered it as medium rare (it came out between medium and medium rare, which was OK). The keftah had decent flavor but was horribly overcooked.

Clearly, ordering correctly here is kind of important. That said, it was not an awful meal, I just prefer a better one than I got. I would not go out of my way to go back. The saving grace of the place is that they take reservations for large groups (there were 10 of us) - not a lot of places in Bethesda do that.

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6 hours ago, jandres374 said:

I read the article and comments.  They couldn't renegotiate an extension with their landlord.  On the one hand it feels like many restaurants have closed in Bethesda of recent.  OTOH it just might be no different than anywhere else in the region; there are many closings everywhere.  Frankly that might not be that different than earlier time periods with the only change being that restaurant news is far more available and very accessible via social media and the news.

One thing that struck me:  there are a ton of restaurants in downtown Bethesda.  I saw a reference to around 200.  I checked the directory/map on yelp and came up with at least 150 and then stopped.  I only focused on that area between Bradley Blvd on the South and where Woodmont Avenue dumps into Wisconsin on the North.  That is an enormous volume of competition in a relatively smallish compact area.  On top of that the number of competitors running through Montgomery County is remarkably more than when I lived in North Bethesda and dined in downtown Bethesda all the time, partially because of a scarcity of quality options further North. 

High rents--endless competition every day for the dining dollar.  It is a tough tough environment.

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13 hours ago, jandres374 said:

No great loss IMHO. But that whole area is changing so, so much. I came back through there one night on the way home from Ballston to Laurel (thanks to Waze) to get to Chicken on te Run for a fix. There were beter options before them being there, during them being there and I would imagine after they close.

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On 3/7/2018 at 8:40 AM, jandres374 said:

Bethesda location is closing on March 10.

Awhile back, I talked with Gladys Abi-Najm, and she seemed to imply that the Upper NW location was their true flagship. 

Boy, I remember the days when Lebanese Taverna was a tiny little mom-n-pop in Westover - always crowded, always good.

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Awhile back, I talked with Gladys Abi-Najm, and she seemed to imply that the Upper NW location was their true flagship. 

Boy, I remember the days when Lebanese Taverna was a tiny little mom-n-pop in Westover - always crowded, always good.

I remember even earlier than that when they had the Airborne Pizza place in Westover and sold Lebanese goodies on the side.  

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I love the Taverna Market, perhaps more than the restaurant (although the restaurant is great to be able to eat something interesting and good even with picky eaters).  I like picking up stuff there, the hummus is so much better than grocery store, the stuffed grape leaves are great and I love those beans in tomato sauce- I have tried to replicate these and I just haven't yet.

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Lebanese Taverna is very consistent across their many restaurants. It is a shame the Bethesda spot is closing - it was a go to midway meeting spot for meals with family who live in upper MoCo and us in NW DC. The baba is still my favorite of anywhere in the area and the lamb dish with the lamb stuffed grape leaves is killer. 

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We were really hoping to eat at the Tysons location on Saturday at 11:30 am but apparently, unlike most of the other restaurants in the Galleria, it doesn't open until noon.  With our two year-old's nap schedule, we couldn't wait and ended up driving 10 minutes down 123 to Sushi Yoshi, which was great as expected.

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We went to the Pentagon City location on Friday night, I got a lamb shank with green chickpeas, tomato and artichoke.  The dish was pretty good, but I felt like it needed more sauce of some sort- green chickpeas to me almost taste like a cross between a chickpea and a spring pea. I wish the tomatoes had been more blistered and a little more saucey- and a few more of them.  But it fell within a good WW point ratio so that I could have some pita and hummus, and the lamb shank was delicious.  Mom's shrimp kabobs were really good, I will get that next time and get double roasted veggies- no rice.  Hubby got the dish with the pita chips and yogurt, which was much improved, as you now get the yogurt on the side and can add it to your liking.  I got an $8 white wine blend that I thought was perfectly decent.  All in all a nice meal while running errands.

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Lebanese Taverna is a wonderful local story. I have been a frequent visitor at their original location on Washington Blvd in Arlington since 1980, even before it expanded to the place next door and before the Abi-Najm family opened up 10 more locations. I think the original Westover location, and the Tysons Galleria location, are the best of this group's restaurants. These two, along with Me Jana and Mama Ayesha's Calvert Cafe, are the best examples of sit-down Lebanese dining in our area.

Lebanese cuisine is western Syrian cuisine with touches of French influence here and there. For some reason, it doesn't get the appreciation of food critics like Sietsema, but when fused with the rest of the eastern Mediterranean, like Zaytinya or Agora, it somehow gets more love.

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On 11/4/2019 at 2:12 PM, Kibbee Nayee said:

Lebanese Taverna is a wonderful local story. I have been a frequent visitor at their original location on Washington Blvd in Arlington since 1980, even before it expanded to the place next door and before the Abi-Najm family opened up 10 more locations. I think the original Westover location, and the Tysons Galleria location, are the best of this group's restaurants. These two, along with Me Jana and Mama Ayesha's Calvert Cafe, are the best examples of sit-down Lebanese dining in our area.

Lebanese cuisine is western Syrian cuisine with touches of French influence here and there. For some reason, it doesn't get the appreciation of food critics like Sietsema, but when fused with the rest of the eastern Mediterranean, like Zaytinya or Agora, it somehow gets more love.

From his chat today:

The deal is: Lebanese Taverna isn't the model it used to be (like Five Guys, it suffered from expansion) and Mama Ayesha's is fine, but not better than that. I've mentioned Me Jana on this chat before, but I haven't been in more than a year. So thank you for the prompt to revisit it.

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48 minutes ago, mtureck said:

From his chat today:

The deal is: Lebanese Taverna isn't the model it used to be (like Five Guys, it suffered from expansion) and Mama Ayesha's is fine, but not better than that. I've mentioned Me Jana on this chat before, but I haven't been in more than a year. So thank you for the prompt to revisit it.

That was my question in his chat today.

His answer was a bit flip. He probably hasn't eaten at Mama Ayesha's in a while -- it has been reviving itself of late. And Lebanese Taverna may have over-expanded, but as I said, the flagship in Westover is a very good restaurant, and so is Tysons Galleria. I'm looking forward to his review of Me Jana.

He sort of confirmed my point....earlier in his chat, he was excited about going to a new Turkish restaurant, and his answer to my question indicated he hadn't eaten at a true Lebanese restaurant in quite a while.

In Sietsema's defense, he has quite an expansive food scene to cover in the DC metropolitan area, but I think I hit on a blind spot of his.

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4 hours ago, Kibbee Nayee said:

That was my question in his chat today.

His answer was a bit flip. He probably hasn't eaten at Mama Ayesha's in a while -- it has been reviving itself of late. And Lebanese Taverna may have over-expanded, but as I said, the flagship in Westover is a very good restaurant, and so is Tysons Galleria. I'm looking forward to his review of Me Jana.

He sort of confirmed my point....earlier in his chat, he was excited about going to a new Turkish restaurant, and his answer to my question indicated he hadn't eaten at a true Lebanese restaurant in quite a while.

In Sietsema's defense, he has quite an expansive food scene to cover in the DC metropolitan area, but I think I hit on a blind spot of his.

I was simply trying to answer as many questions as I could in the hour. Also: I based my assessment of MA's on two recent visits.

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8 hours ago, Kibbee Nayee said:

That was my question in his chat today.

His answer was a bit flip. He probably hasn't eaten at Mama Ayesha's in a while -- it has been reviving itself of late.o my question indicated he hadn't eaten at a true Lebanese restaurant in quite a while.

...

In Sietsema's defense, he has quite an expansive food scene to cover in the DC metropolitan area, but I think I hit on a blind spot of his.

5 hours ago, Tom Sietsema said:

I was simply trying to answer as many questions as I could in the hour. Also: I based my assessment of MA's on two recent visits.

Bruce, now that some hours have passed, do you really think his answer was a bit flip? I thought it was perfectly reasonable - better than I could have given on short notice.

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Takeout tonight from Lebanese Taverna. It was a bit late so the boy had to stand around for a while, but... it was worth it. Quite tasty. Garlic hummus, artichoke hearts. Chicken Fatteh, mixed kabob. Lots and lots of leftovers!

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