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LizH

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

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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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2 hours ago, Kibbee Nayee said:

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.

He covers new restaurants and old favorites.  I'm sure he'll never go back to Mama Chang, or any other Chinese restaurant.

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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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No, I don’t think he was being flip. He was being bombarded by questions, and I was trying to convey, however weakly, a blind spot for true Lebanese cuisine in our area. I respect his writing a lot.

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