Layalina - Arlington
After seeing mentions of Layalina (Wilson Blvd between Ballston and Seven Corners) here and then in the Washingtonian, decided to give it a try.
The atmosphere was lovely and the service was pleasant. I like the feeling of a small family run establishment. We stuck with mezza including hummus with fava beans, lebneh, falafel, lamb sausage, meat pies, that sort of thing.
While overall everything was good, the service was on the slow side (although perhaps they were dealing with increased traffic due to the mention in Washingtonian) and the bread was not interesting at all - seemed like store bought pita bread, was practically cold. We might go back since it's in the neighborhood, but so is the Westover Lebanese Taverna, which I think I like better.
I did like the diverse mezza menu. I did not get to try all the things I would have liked to - but they have several different kinds of hummus with different toppings, for example.
Surprised at the negative reviews. The pita is typical of Lebanese restaurants, a vessel for the good dips more than just a free "bread" at the beginning of the meal. Try it with the muhammara (a great roasted red pepper and walnut dish) or one of their many versions of hummos. The mazza are fine, but entrees are better. Many preparations of lamb shank and a wonderful version of shawarma. Their kafta is also excellent. Lebanese Taverna is also good, but I think a very different vibe. It may be a small chain, but it's a chain nonetheless. All things equal, I'll go for the small, family-run neighborhood restaurant every time. I understand the quibbles here, but I say give them another chance, and try something different.
This review is from last year, but holds up.
My first ever post. I usually go to Layalina for my birthday every year. It is not quite as trendy as Lebanese Taverna has become, and it still has more authentic Syrian food on the menu than other other DC area Middle Eastern restaurant. It has its ups and downs but my family and I enjoy it enough to keep going back.
I live close to Layalina and have observed the crowds heading in there in each weekend. Tried it for the first time this week and wont go back. The service was terrible, especially given that the restaurant was half-empty; we waited 10-15 minutes to place an order, the waiter didnt seem overly interested to take our order, they brought the wrong hummus, and forgot the falafel mezza. Agreed on the pita bread; cold and thin.
The food was average (way below what I'd heard from friends who love the place); the hummus was bland, the pasta with the lamb chop was overcooked and pretty standard. We liked the falafel (when it eventually arrived) and I thought that the chicken schwarma was well-spiced.
Overall, I felt that the food was just okay and nothing special. Not worth the effort in my mind (and I'm a guy who is happy with most food).
It's not really a contest, you know, unless you insist on counting (and were's the pleasure in that?). Perhaps, as much as anything else, the raves stem from the warm welcome and the feeling that everyone there is happy.
My wife doesn't stretch too far from "meat and potatoes" but loves Layalina. Is it the best I've ever had? No, but it's close enough to mske me glad to go.