Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Wishes For Lebanese Food: I'll Take The Taverna, But Real Connoisseurs Dream Of Dearborn

One of my great desires is a Lebanese Taverna, and reader DonkeyKong says it could get even better than that.

Mrs. HowChow and I have always loved Lebanese Taverna -- from the upscale ones like Harbor East to the cafes in Rockville and Silver Spring.  But DonkeyKong went to Dearborn, Michigan on business a came back with desserts that I had never seen before -- fried honey dumplings call awame.  And he came back with a dream:
A couple of weeks ago I found myself in Dearborn, thinking about what is missing in Howard County.  Anytime you're feeling envious of Dearborn, it means one of two things 1) you love the good music coming in from the Canadian radio stations that are yet to be taken over by Clear Channel playlists; or 2) you're eating phenomenal Lebanese food.   
Of all the world's cuisine, Lebanese is among the most comprehensive (everything from breakfast to dessert to unique wine styles) and the most tasty, but unfortunately among the rarest in Howard County. 
It occurred to me how deprived we in Howard County are as I was popping my fifth awame in my mouth after a big meal of lebneh, kafta, and schwarma.  Sure, there's Lebanese Taverna in Harbor East, or Bethesda Row, or Pentagon Row, or Cleveland Park, or Tyson's Corner (walkable, revitalized, and with a Whole Foods) but I want one to call my own...and honestly, once you've had Lebanese food from the Arab neighborhoods of Dearborn, Lebanese Taverna becomes the Olive Garden of the cuisine pretty quickly. 

Yet to look at Howard County's demographics is to realize just how strange it is that a restauranteur has not decided to bring this cuisine to Howard County.  We're upwardly mobile, reward good restaurants with packed houses and long waits, have a large population of people who keep kosher or eat halal, and already have a plethora of successful ethnic restaurants.   
I came back from Dearborn and told HowChow that I'm prepared to take an ad out in the Detroit Free Press offering Howard County to a Lebanese chef the same way Maryland takes ads out in Variety to offer Baltimore as a stand-in for DC or New York.  
Barring that, we need a concerted HowChow reader-bomb of Lebanese Taverna to get them to come to the new downtown or the vacant ground floor retail space of Maple Lawn,or the soon-to-be-ground-broken Turf Valley.  Our lack of any Lebanese food ranks with bad commutes and unfair FHA-conforming loan limits as my top complaints in the Switzerland of Maryland.  But it is a problem I think is within our power to solve.  Someday soon I'd like to buy my awame and shwarma local. 
What is the best Middle Eastern food around?  I'm surprised like DonkeyKong that there isn't more. We went with a large group to the Harbor East Lebanese Taverna a few weeks ago, and the food in delicious.  The bread alone is worth a visit.  We topped it off with kabobs, falafel, hummus, salads, and a delicious lemonade.  I'd love a local spot -- classy or casual.


Shannon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

There is a brand-new Middle Eastern restaurant in nearby Catonsville called Umami Global Bistro. Good falafel, bread, lamb, dessert! Check it out!

Rob said...

For my money, the best mediterranean food around is at Baba's Kitchen, headed by Farid Bishara Salloum, who bills himself as the CFO (Chief Falafel Officer). It is a small place, with seating inside for about 12, but Farid is very outgoing and makes everyone feel at home. Best falafel pita sandwich I have found in Baltimore.

Anonymous said...

Lebanese Taverna also has awamet as well as my husband's favorite: The Creme Brulee. He loves this dessert so much he usually order 2 of this just for himself ;)

LT's price is reasonable, specially for the quality of food they offer. With plenty of vegetarian and non-vegetarian offers there is something for everybody.

I recommend their Hommos trio, Fried Artichokes, Fattoush salad and Sharhat Ghanam (lamb loin with sliced potatoes)... Getting hungry!

Xani said...

I visit family in Dearborn 1-2 times a year and we have the BEST middle eastern food. The Pita Cafe is our go-to; if only there was something similar in MD! I live right down the street from Bab's Kitchen, which is good but doesn't have the variety (or great prices) you find in Dearborn.

Stephanie T said...

Oh, man, this post makes me homesick. I grew up in metro Detroit, and the whole area has (to quote Xani) the BEST middle eastern food. For what it's worth, I've yet to find anything comparable around here. Egyptian Pizza on the north border of Baltimore (in Belvedere Square) has a couple of good dishes.