"People in Lebanon eat out all the time. You walk down the street during the middle of the day and think to yourself: why are they out? Do they not work?"
If it relates to Lebanese food culture, Tina Wazirian has done it. She's been on the TV shows, she's launched the restaurants and worked in kitchens. She's even studied at Le Cordon Bleu and immersed herself in the LA food scene for six years to bring a global perspective back to Lebanon.
"I moved back to Lebanon because you have a little bit of everything: you have good food, down to earth places, fancy places, you have the Michelin starred restaurants. You huge mosques, Virgin Mary statues, natural wonders, waterfalls, the grottoes—you have everything."
We caught up with Wazirian to find out her top picks for dining in Beirut:
Al Falamanki serves up a broad range of carefully prepared Middle Eastern and Lebanese dishes round the clock. Start your day with a serving of their eggs cooked in a clay pot, homemade labneh and manakish (a flatbread top with za'atar). Or head there for dinner with friends. No matter when you go, you'll want a set on tranquil terrace, which feels a world away from the traffic swarming outside.
Yes, Enab does offer a delightful selection of international and local dishes. But the true appeal lies in its colorful garden dining. Settle into a plush bright teal chair and get ready to dig into a selection of hot and cold mezze, paired with a selection of grilled meats and washed down with local wine.
For high-end Arab cuisine, iron your nicest clothes and head to Em Sherif. The interior is palatial with carved wood windows and opulent glass chandeliers. To eat, they operate a tasting menu of sorts with a series of sharing plates served to the entire table for $65 per person. They also operate the more casual Cafe Em Sherif, where the atmosphere is more sleek and modern and a menu that lets you pick and choose from a variety of smaller plates.
In Beirut you're uniquely poised to enjoy high-quality Armenian food thanks to the influx of Armenian refugees. Mayrig is a particularly well-loved example of this cuisine, which is similar to Lebanese cuisine, but with a few twists. Try hummus topped with Armenian sausage or pine nuts; mouhammara, hot pepper-walnut dip; and mante, minced meat dumplings with tomato sauce and yogurt. They also have a terra cotta-lined garden, perfect for summertime dining.
Everyone in Beirut seems to love this authentic Armenian restaurant, which seats ten people max. It's a favorite with politicians, who crowd the small tables to dig into simply prepared hummus and creamy labneh. It was a father-son operation, until the father passed away last year. The son has ensured the restaurant continues serving up the crowds who make their way to the run down Bouj Harmoud.
Meat The Fish
You want fish, your dining companion wants meat: enter Meat The Fish, the airy restaurant/cafe where only the freshest of both are served. The menu changes daily according to market availability and is one of the more inventive in Beirut—try the kale Cesar salad topped with salmon. The white interior with blonde wood tables is particularly inviting.
Madame Bleu Beach Club
A pool with good food? Yep, it’s a must in Beirut. Madame Bleu is a particular favorite for their relaxing, upscale ambiance. You could keep it light with a Greek salad, or go for the grilled calamari and halloumi. Pair it with a refreshing mocktail and you have a perfect afternoon in Beirut.
Al Mandaloun Beach Club
It feels like you could find everything at Al Mandaloun. It's a beach club, a cafe and a really good fish restaurant. At the restaurant, the menu features a range of local and international dishes, like red tuna carpaccio with black pepper and arugula, as well as mezze like a garlic-free hummus with a drizzle of creamy tehina. While the beachy blue and white interior is perfectly nice, opt for a table outside, where you can watch the waves roll into Dbayeh's seaport.
Sporting Beach Club
Travel back in time to 1980s Lebanon with a trip to this casual beach club. The menu is bare bones, so keep it simple and light with a lemonade and taouksandwich (grilled chicken and vegetables in pita)—you're here for the people watching and pool after all.
Souk El Akel
Enter into the minds' of Beirut's most creative chefs at Souk el Akel, the city's go-to street food market. The market tours the entire country offering the best local produce and new flavors. This is your opportunity to try Lebanon's rendition of a jacket potato, or find out how they do a cheesesteak.
Sky Bar Beirut
Fine, you're not going to Sky Bar for the food—you're going because it's one of the city's top nightlife destinations. But this is Beirut and even clubs offer a full Asian-inspired menu including everything from pork bao to modern sushi creations.