Mediterranean cuisine is renowned for the way its rich ingredients inspire innovative food-fighting techniques. Skillfully execute the Kebab Eye Jab or the Hummus Humdinger with today’s Groupon: for $20, you get $40 worth of fare at Lebanese Taverna. This Groupon is only valid at the waterfront location on President Street.
Lebanese Taverna coddles Mediterranean-seeking taste buds with its menu of entrees, soups, salads, and vegetarian offerings. Chickpea enthusiasts can concoct their own hummus ($5+) by selecting their preferred flavor (traditional, garlic, or spicy) and adding a topping, such as roasted pine nuts or chicken shawarma ($2). Rice crackers, pita chips, fries, or veggies make delicious dipsticks ($1–$2), in addition to the included fresh, oven-kissed bread. Heartier entrees include lamb tartare ($9 lunch, $10 dinner), eggplant salad ($5.50, $6), and grilled salmon ($15, $19). Thirst-deprived throats can find refuge in an extensive wine list, available by the glass, bottle, or poured directly into cupped hands.
The restaurant's stylish design features tall windows overlooking the water and ceilings meant to billow like a ship's sails during a storm of amazing-colossal-man sneezes. Located in the new Baltimore East Harbor, the restaurant is a pebble's toss from the Baltimore Aquarium, Baltimore Maritime Museum, and the Maryland Science Center.
Although reviewers are mixed on cuisine, customers enjoy the ambience and waterfront location. Zagat rates Lebanese Taverna very good to excellent. OpenTable reviewers give it an average of 3.9 stars. Yelpers rate it an average of 3.5 stars, and TripAdvisors give it an average of 3.5 owl eyes. Eighty-one percent of Urbanspooners recommend it.
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 cafés, 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.