Let’s be clear: going out for me isn’t partying it up in Sky Bar with the chain smoking – sexually frustrated masses, or popping in for a drink at Iris to “enjoy the sunset”. No – my idea of the perfect night out is a scrumptious feast bursting with tasty appetizers and succulent desserts. However, dining out in Beirut can be downright unbearable at times. The choices are overwhelming, and it’s a certified hassle trying to decide where to go next. Hopefully, this guide will make your life easier the next time those dreaded hunger pangs strike. Just be sure to pay your gym a visit after indulging.
Favorite New Discovery
Forget Sud, BarTartine, Toto, and all the hype. The one place that’s slowly but surely cemented itself as the most impressive new establishment in Beirut is Gilt, a fantastic new restaurant in Saifi. Order the quinoa salad and the salmon tartare for your entrees, the excellent grilled shrimps for your main course, and a pain perdu that just might give Couqley a run for its money with its mindblowingness. Gilt is special, and it’s not to be missed.
752 Gouraud Street
My Go-To Place
I can never get enough of Couqley (the Gemayze branch in particular). Whenever I can’t seem to decide where to go, this spectacular little French bistro is always the first thing that springs to mind. The steak frites is mouthwatering, the pumpkin soup is perfect (and I hate pumpkin), and the pain perdu is phenomenal. Plus, the atmosphere is ridiculously charming and cozy. So the next time you’re lost, consider your decision already made.
The Alleyway in Gemayze, Beirut
70 323 272
The Restaurant of Tomorrow
This Spanish/Andalusian brasserie in Downtown (right across the street from Cocteau) is brimming with potential. The service is top-notch, the tapas are delightfully unique, and the outdoor garden is downright gorgeous. Start with the avocado cannelloni stuffed with crab, and then share the grilled sea bass and superb lamb shank. Here’s hoping that Copla continues to live up to its potential well into the future.
Berytus Building, Park Avenue, Downtown Beirut
01 999 250
Favorite Fancy Place
I can’t believe it took me so long to discover Cocteau. Thankfully, I’ve already started making up for that oversight with several visits in the last two weeks. Seriously this swanky place is magnificent. Try the fresh crab salad and sinful foie gras to start, then switch things up a bit and go for the impeccable steak tartare as your main course. Finally, bookend your meal with the exceptional chocolate souffle. To top it all off, the unique architectural design makes Cocteau the most singularly beautiful restaurant in Beirut.
Paladium Building, Downtown Beirut
The Ultimate Date Place
La Petite Maison
If you’re going out to impress, here’s your place. La Petite Maison is not cheap – if you want to have a feast, expect to pay around a $100 per person (excluding alcohol), but the quality is extraordinary. The octopus carpaccio is a surprisingly terrific starter, while the lamb cutlets are remarkably tender. As for dessert, the lovely Maia recommends the sinful vanilla donuts. The next time you’re in need of some romance, look no further.
Le Vendôme Beirut, Ain El Mreisseh.
Beirut’s Most Undiscovered Gem
Whenever I overhear family and friends trying to decide where to go for dinner, no one ever mentions Coquelicot. The reason is simple: they just haven’t heard about it (“Do you mean Couqley?”), and I intend to change that. In fact, I’ve become an outspoken advocate of this wonderful place (it no doubt helps that the chair patterns are taken directly from Revenge, one of my favorite shows). Start with the shrimps bathed in goat cheese, follow it up with the couer de fillet or the orange-glazed duck, and finish off your meal with the exceptional nutella crepes.
Unfortunately, Coquelicot has closed its doors for good.
My Italian Pick
This quaint little place in Mar Mikhael is outstanding, and it’s rightfully claimed Olio‘s throne as my number one pizza choice in Lebanon. Simply put, no one in Beirut does Italian better. But it’s not just the pizzas that are incredible; the gnocchi pesto is positively out of this world. Afterwards, enjoy some creme brulee and a scoop of marvelous raspberry sorbet. An all-time favorite of mine for sure.
Mar Mikhael, Beirut
01 442 244
My Arabic Pick
I’m not usually a fan of Arabic food; I’ve tried them all, and I always feel like I’m breaking a new record in terms of gluttony with my lack of self control. However, while Em Sharif blows the roof off quantities (the experience consists of several rounds of treats landing at your table), the place adds a unique twist to every dish that makes it a memorable culinary journey to share with family and friends. I don’t do it often (I’d have to live at the gym), but when I do, it’s utterly amazing.
Victor Hugo Str, Sodeco
My Sushi Pick
Kampai is overrated, and Le Sushi Bar always depresses the hell out of me. Osaka however, has recently overtaken Shogun as my personal favorite sushi place all-around. The fish is fresh every single time, with a wide variety of high-quality creations that never disappoint. The Unagi (eel) is a particular highlight. Truly first-rate.
Kantari Street, Beirut
My Indian Pick
I used to think Yasmina was the most delicious Indian cuisine you could have in Beirut. Then I discovered Al Hindi, a likeable and often-overlooked restaurant that’s stealthily located in Ain Al Mreysseh’s Palm Beach Hotel. The prices are affordable, the butter chicken is wickedly creamy (especially with some saffron rice), and the naan is undeniably decadent. Also, the place looks like a library where a clown threw up in, and trust me when I tell you – that’s a good thing.
Palm Beach Hotel
Ain El Mreisseh
Beirut’s Best Burger
No contest, Frosty Palace still has the best burger in Lebanon. Whether it’s one of their weekly specials (I’ve tried the Bearnaise and the Nostalgia creations), or the reliably epic Frosty’s Burger, this funky diner never disappoints. And with killer fries, heavenly pancakes, a divine caramel banana sundae, and a homey atmosphere unlike any other, I have no doubt that Frosty is going to remain a favorite of mine for many years to come.
Mar Mikhael, Beirut, Lebanon
01 449 595
The Town’s Tastiest Nachos
Forget about Roadster, Crepaway, and Chili’s. The most finger-lickin’ good nachos in town are at Beirut Cellar. Dripping with oozing goodness, they’re tremendously cheesy and satisfying. Do yourself a favor and try…them…now.
Chehadeh Street, Achrafieh, Beirut
My Dessert of Choice
The Cookie at St.Elmo’s Brasserie
I can’t express how glorious the cookie at St. Elmo’s is. I have a theory that it’s prepared by the angels themselves, as that’s the only thing that can explain the breathtaking brilliance that is this dessert. It’s hot, it’s cold – it’s just astounding on every level. There are no words.
Zaitunay Bay, Beirut Marina, Beirut
My Fast Food of Choice
Sometimes, all you just need a little comfort food. And while I love Burger King‘s majestic fries and McDonald‘s awesome Big Mac, there’s still nothing quite like the Mushroom and Swiss burger at Hardee’s. No other place in town comes close to replicating this luscious creation. Yes it’s kind of small, but the sauce is a thing of beauty, and pairing it with some crispy curly fries and the notorious Big Cookie makes it the ultimate cheat meal. You won’t regret it (well, kind of).
(Fast Food Round-Up)