In the dead of night in 1976, the Abi-Najm family boarded a cargo ship bringing only what they could carry; an escape from Civil War in Lebanon called for a quick getaway. They traveled across the ocean to safety in Arlington, Virginia, where they were able to open a small cafe in 1979. To save money, they changed the eatery?s name from ?Athenian Taverna? to ?Lebanese Taverna? so that they only had to update one word on the eatery?s marquee.
From these modest beginnings grew a series of eateries that today comprises of six cafes and four quick-service caf?s, all still operated by the Abi-Najm clan. One look at the menu explains the success: chicken shawarma, spicy hummus, lamb tartare?all Lebanese staples that helped the restaurant earn a spot on Northern Virginia magazine's list of 25 Iconic Eats. There's even kibbeh, or stuffed meatballs, which blend ground beef, lamb, almonds, and pine nuts into fried spheres suitable for felling miniature bowling pins on top of the table before entrees arrive. The decor is as striking as the cuisine; inside the Bethesda location, light filters through the colored glass lanterns that decorate the dining room.
Melt Cafe and Gelato Bar grounds its recipes and preparation techniques in Italian tradition, creating desserts that are low in both fat and calories. The franchise encompasses brick-and-mortar storefronts and kiosks across five states. In each, staffers craft the classic whipped Italian ice cream, gelato, in more than 30 flavors such as cappuccino, pistachio, and swiss chocolate. Dessert cups also brim with silky-soft sorbetto, which is made entirely from sugar and fresh fruits. Though Melt focuses on frozen treats, it also lives up to the café portion of its name with hearty panini sandwiches and sweet or savory crepes. Tuscan-style espresso and drip coffee wash down bites of food and give you the energy to finish that screenplay about the lost dog who, by finding his owner, also finds himself.
Packed with produce, dairy, kosher foods, and Middle Eastern and Mediterranean ingredients, KosherMart ensures larders are stocked with affordable goods. Tomatoes ($.0.99 per lb.), Sabra Babaganoush (17-ounces, $5.49 each), and Ungar's Regular Gefilte Fish (22-ounces, $5.49 each) keep refrigerators happily humming mealtime melodies, while imported Israeli products including olive oils and cookies keep forlorn cupboards company. Kosher cheeses and wines add a sophisticated touch to dinner gatherings and a lively punch to afternoon coffee breaks. This greengrocer’s grotto also hosts a full glatt kosher butchery and a deli, dishing out fresh baked wares, soups, and sandwiches, as well as homemade Mediterranean and Middle Eastern salads for grazing on the go.
Scott Nash started MOM's Organic Market in his mom's garage. He repurposed the space as a warehouse for organic goods, dispatching orders to local buyers. When he outgrew the space, he rented an actual warehouse, and then a bigger one, eventually outgrowing the home-delivery business and replacing it with a retail outlet. From there, the business mushroomed like a naturally grown, pesticide-free mushroom—it now maintains 10 retail locations across Maryland and Virginia. Each location subscribes to a single mission—to protect and restore the environment. Store managers stock organic and local products whenever possible, and reduce waste by minimizing packaging. To power their stores, they call upon natural energy sources, such as wind and the earth's molten core. As an added benefit, they buy in bulk to keep prices low and author recipes that transform organic produce into delicious meals.
Utilizing 17 years of plant-rearing expertise, Farmhouse Flowers & Plants thrills discerning nostrils with an olfactory smorgasbord of locally grown blossoms, perennials, bedding plants, and herbs. Peruse one of the farm's four booths at area farmers' markets, and encounter year-round and seasonal offerings dazzling enough to brighten the day of the Harlem Globetrotters' perpetually doomed opponents. Seventy-five varieties of plants clamor for your green thumb's attention, from zinnias ($0.75/stem) to sunflowers ($1.50 each) and lilies ($4/stem). A mid-May peony harvest ($4 each) peppers chlorophyll-based arrangements with the kaleidoscopic buds, and potted rosemary ($3.75/4" pot) and basil ($2.75/3" pot) add a professional touch to home cooking without the hair-flattening effects of a chef's toque.
The staff at Shaul's Kosher dual-purpose market cooks up ready-made meals for tasty takeout and stocks shelves with an extensive selection of Israeli groceries. Quiet echoing pantries with stockpiles of kosher comestibles, with foods from brands such as Strauss, Elite, and Osem, including Bamba, the peanut-flavored staple of snack-seeking children ($0.99). Osem's wheat and sesame crackers ($1.99 each) get blanketed with Tnuva cheeses ($5.49 and up), spreadable white cheeses with calcium additives that get bodies one step closer to a fully internalized periodic table. Avoid cumbersome kitchens and still serve a Shabbat-approved spread with meaty morsels from the takeout counter, including rotisserie chicken ($11.95), homemade corned-beef sandwiches ($8.50) or sweet-and-sour meatballs ($8.99/lb.), whose dichotomous flavor surprises taste buds more than a molar-incisor dance-off.