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best middle eastern/lebanese in NYC?

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Hello! I am going to be in NYC for one evening in mid october and I am looking to have a fantastic, authentic middle eastern meal. having lived in the middle east for a few years, I like to venture beyond just shawarma and hummus (although those are delicious too!)

am looking for a wide variety of mezza to try, sambousick and sfiha are a must! kafta meshwi, farrouj and a mixed grill would be the sort of entrees im looking for. even if its just a great place to enjoy a few mezza with my significant other before heading to a later dinner elsewhere, thats fine too.

dont really care too much about atmosphere, but would consider it a plus if the restaurant offered a semi-romantic experience and something other than what I can find in maryland.

in general: what do you think is the best middle eastern food in nyc?

Thanks in advance for your help! :)

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  1. As Middle Eastern food is my favorite type, I can make a few suggestions:

    -Moustache Cafe (West Village location): not a very romantic atmosphere (very casual in fact), but consistently good food and prices. In a charming neighborhod as well. Gets pretty crowded so you'll probably have a wait. Check it out:

    -Another place related to Moustache on around 4th street between Avenues A and B - I am blanking on the name! It offers two seatings per night, one at 7 pm and another at 9 pm. In terms of ambiance, it may be more what you are looking for - low tables and dim lighting, I think they have hookah too. It is a fixed price menu ($30 I think) and they bring out TONS of food - start with various dips and cute little pitas, then on to mains (several types) and then deserts. The food is pretty good but the ambiance and the freshness of the food is the main draw for me.

    -If you want to venture out beyond Manhattan Brooklyn Heights has some terrific Middle Eastern food on Atlantic Avenue. The places here are pretty casual but also not too pricey. My favorites are Fountain Cafe (on Atlantic between Clinton and Court Streets) and another place on HIcks Street at Atlantic that I forget the name of. Both have excellent kebabs, salads, shawarma, and more!

    I hope this helps!

    4 Replies
    1. re: Eager to Eat

      oops! i was writing at the same time as you it seems. the place you mention on 4th st is mamlouk. (call for reservations)

      moustache also has an EV location on 10th st-- the food is fresh, also delicious. the service slow but slightly friendlier than the west village location. more of a casual place, and less of a time commitment than mamlouk

      1. re: freddie

        Mamlouk is a good bet. the place on Atlantic between Henry and Hicks in Brooklyn is Waterfalls Cafe and is excellent. Their Shawarma and baba are fantastic. no real atmosphere to speak of, but a homey place with terrific food. Mamlouk has more in the way of atmosphere, romance and experience.

      2. re: Eager to Eat

        up here by columbia there's a little lebenese place called 'amir's' that makes an awesome shishkabob sandwich. they make it with pieces of grilled steak instead of the standard cubes. :)

        1. re: Eager to Eat

          Love Moustache. Tasty food in a warm, inviting setting.

        2. mamlouk offers a great night, with a prix fixe menu ($35 pp), lovely atmosphere, great mezze/apps, delicious entrees. you have to have a couple hours and an enormous appetite.

          i wouldn't claim that it's the best middle eastern food in nyc, but it is the best i've had...

          1. While unfortunately outside of Manhattan, I believe Tanoreen in Brooklyn to be the best Middle Eastern in the city. Fresh and interesting mezze selections (the fried dandelion greens a must), and wonderful entrees in a storefront setting. Absolutely the best kibbe I have ever had.

            1 Reply
            1. not sure if it's considered middle eastern (it may be more EU-ish!), but Turkish Kitchen on 27th and 3rd is phenomenal! great mezze and amazing main courses. great drinks too.

              1. Thanks for all your help, I've definitely jotted down all those restaurants and hope to try them all in the future! Will probably be going to moustache or mamlouk...sounds really yummy. Again, thanks so much for sharing your knowledge and experience!

                1. I LOVE Alfanoose on Maidenlane and B'way in downtown by Wall St. Good prices, yummy to the tummy!

                  Also, if you are in North Brooklyn, Oasis on Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg. Not a fancy eatery, but the food is WONDERFUL. Best falafel balls yet. Excellent prices as well.

                  Good luck!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Cheska

                    Strongly second both of these suggestions. Alfanoose is in my top three favorite falafel places in manhattan. And Oasis serves tasty and reasonably-priced food in a very pleasant setting.

                  2. Moustache - best bang for the buck - wonderful lemony hummus, smoky eggplant, freshest pitas arrive fluffed and steaming. very vegetarian friendly.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: gastrophysicist

                      Have to strongly disagree. Moustache tastes like what West Villagers THINK middle eastern food is. Everything seems somehow timid. Even the ayran, which is a simple drink one makes at home, wasn't quite right. The bread was admittedly good, though.

                    2. grew up eating great lebanese food in detroit and arrived 20 years ago in new york SPOILED. it's very hard to find anything as good here...best i've tasted in new york is probably al bustan, on third avenue around 50th street in manhattan. not cheap.

                      6 Replies
                        1. re: mrfinewine

                          Agreed - tried Moustache a few years back. I was surprised, after hearing such good things, that it was not even close to Detroit area Lebanese. Maybe we'll try Al Bustan next time we're in the city.

                          1. re: tokyo

                            Al Bustan closed, at least the location on third avenue did.
                            I am not sure if they relocated elsewhere.

                            1. re: maria_nyc

                              They're supposed to be opening in a new place on 53rd between 2nd & 1st, nearer 2nd, sometime this fall.

                              1. re: Jane A.

                                It is open again, not sure where, but my husband was there on Monday and thought it was particularly mediocre.

                                1. re: MMRuth

                                  It's on 53rd between 1st & 2nd, closer to 2nd. I've been walking by there since they reopened and it's always empty. Lunch and dinner. They haven't done any promotion in the neighborhood at all. They finally put out menus after they've been open 5 or 6 months. I just don't get what's going on there. Glad to know that there's really no point in going - though I was pretty sure that if it were any good, there would have been some word of mouth buzz.

                        2. Byblos in Manhattan is my favorite. If you want to head to Brooklyn Tanoreen and Sally & Georges across the street from one another in Bay Ridge are excellent. Several restaurants on or near Atlantic Ave & Clinton Street are excellent. Tripoli is my favorite for authentic Syrian/Lebanese dishes.

                          1. Mamlouk. I spent 7 weeks in Israel/Jordan/Egypt a few years ago, and Mamlouk equals any I had there. You'll enjoy the atmosphere too.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: mahler5

                              Wow, that's high praise! Any dishes you particularly recommend there?

                              1. re: mahler5

                                When (and where) did Mamlouk reopen? Last I heard it had lost its lease and the owners were looking for another space.

                                1. re: mahler5

                                  if it's open at all, the place was a prix-fixe, course-by-course place where they just keep hitting you with plate after plate. pretty good.

                                  1. re: bigjeff

                                    I had gone there several times over the course of a few years. Each time I was less and less bowled over. I guess the fact that the menu never changed at all (or so it seemed) made it lose its allure for me.

                                    I don't think it's reopened there or anywhere else. I just walked by there a few days ago and reminisced about it.

                                2. We finally went to Ilili last week. The ambience was very nice, busy and exciting. For us it was a bit loud but then again, I am older than most of the crowd there. The quality of the food is excellent. The servers were very attentive.
                                  We ordered quite a few Mezzas (appetizers) and a couple of entrees and shared Middle Eastern style. Some of the prices seemed excessive, $9 for a small portion of Babaganough. The kibbe naya was a disappointment since it was made with beef and not the traditional lamb. The stuffed grapeleaves were meatless. Normally they are stuffed with lamb, rice and spices. They have yoghurt spread (Labne) but don't serve regular Laban (yoghurt) which I consider a sin. I.M.H.O. Byblos has more reasonable and authentic Middle Easten food but the ambience is far below that of Ilili.

                                  236 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10001

                                  14 Replies
                                  1. re: Motosport

                                    ilili is like a meat packing district club/restaurant misplaced in no-mans land... food isn't bad, but the scene there is kind of beat. have heard great things about Tanoreen and also, even though there's never anyone there, Balade in the East Vill has some good Lebanese food.


                                    208 1st Ave, New York, NY 10009

                                    1. re: iFat

                                      Thanks for the recommendation. What do you particularly like at Balade?

                                    2. re: Motosport

                                      Just as a footnote to moto's post, it should be noted that Byblos is out of business indefinitely as a result of the fire that started next-door, in September, and took both restos out.

                                      1. re: Phil Ogelos

                                        Sadly, I am still in mourning over the loss of Byblos and the Evil Empire falling to the Rangers. Who are those guys?

                                        1. re: Motosport

                                          I don't know, moto: as a real-time Orientalist and an Orioles fan, the whole world represents a threat to me.
                                          [I liked your BC&SDK reference.]

                                          1. re: Phil Ogelos

                                            BC & SDK ???? BTW: We love Balmer and of course "The Wire". We did a crab tour on our last visit. Gotta get to Camden Yards next year.

                                            1. re: Motosport

                                              Can't recall the name ("Your name rings a bell, but I can't recall your face."), but we eat at a Lebanese restaurant on 2nd Avenue, west side, between 55th and 56th which we enjoy. Delightful staff and decor, fantastic food.

                                              1. re: Stuartmc910

                                                It's Naya Mezze & Grill.

                                                1057 2nd Avenue, New York, NY 10022

                                                1. re: Jane A.

                                                  We've been meaning to try Naya. The menu looks interesting and authentic Lebanese/Syrian but they make thier Kibbe Naya with beef instead of the traditional lamb tartare. Byblos made it with lamb but they are closed due to fire. Al Bustan looks like they also use beef. Any place still use lamb in their kibbe naya??

                                                  Al Bustan
                                                  319 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022

                                                  1057 2nd Avenue, New York, NY 10022

                                                  1. re: Motosport

                                                    I've been there once, soon after they opened, and, while I'm no expert on Lebanese food, I enjoyed my meal. Very nice selection of Lebanese wine. For some reason, I had though that their kibbe naya was with lamb. Will post back if I find a place that definitely does.

                                                    1. re: Motosport

                                                      I stand corrected Al Bustan shows lamb for their Kibbe Naya. We'll check it out tonight and report back of course.

                                                      Al Bustan
                                                      319 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022

                                                  2. re: Motosport

                                                    BC & SDK = Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid -whence your "who are those guys?"
                                                    I was born in Toronto, moto, but raised in Baltimore -meaning, well, I don't know what that means.

                                                    1. re: Phil Ogelos

                                                      Ahh! One of my favorite "buddy" flicks. Went to Toronto for a Jays/Yanks game. Walked around Chinatown after the game and had a great meal.

                                          2. We always liked the old Al Bustan on 3rd Av so we tried the new one on E 53 ST.
                                            It was authentic Lebanese/Syrian food just like my Syrian Jido (Grandfather) used to make.
                                            There were so many tempting offerings on the menu. We ordered way to many appetizers for the two of us. Hummus, babganough, kibbe w/pumpkin filling, tabouleh and two types of kibbe nayeh which was outstanding. For entrees we had stuffed grapeleaves and stuffed squash with a side order of leban (yogurt).
                                            The restaurant is beautiful and upscale but the prices are reasonable. Excellent and attentive service. It looked like many of the patrons were of middle Eastern descent, a good sign.

                                            Al Bustan
                                            319 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022