Beirut is one of my absolute favourite places in the Middle East. People are incredibly nice, there is relative freedom and the city is so incredibly cultured. It really feels like you are walking in a Mediterranean-alternative-universe Paris. One of the things I loved most about Beirut was the food. There are so many great restaurants in the city; from the Beirut icon of Barbar to the more sophisticated restaurants such as Parilla Winter… you will never ever go hungry in Beirut, no matter your budget!
Cafe Em Nazih
($) If you’re looking for a relaxed, casual, yet trendy environment, serving up beautifully plated delicious dishes at a very affordable price, this cafe is it. The laid back atmosphere is great for intimate dates as well as group gatherings, with ample space surrounded by greenery. It serves up Lebanese dishes catering to many dietary needs including vegetarian, gluten free, Halal and vegan options. The cafe is open from breakfast to late nights, also serving alcoholic drinks and providing entertainment with live bands and outdoor seating. This place is known to be friendly, and known to be the kind of place where everyone will know your name.
($) This place is known to serve comforting, simple Lebanese fast food, at an affordable price. From a variety of grilled meats to fried dishes and snacks, to vegetable options and dainty desserts, this outlet will curb all your fast food cravings. The crunchy falafels and stuffed shawarmas are famous all around Beirut, and they also offer some burgers and sandwiches for those who fancy. If you’re craving a Lebanese pizza, they also offer that, including interesting cheese and spinach pies. The portions are big, making all the dishes served very satisfying. The atmosphere is far from anything fancy, but the environment is clean and inviting, sure to bring you back a couple of times over.
Barbar is especially famous as this little snack bar (used to be a bakery) kept grilling and feeding people during the Lebanese civil war. Josh and I found it a bit scary to go and order at the till (no prices, no names of stuff, just pictures) so we opted to go back to our place and ordered food through the Zomato app. Barbar is on there and you have a better overview of names and prices. We had falafel (omg so good!!!) and Lebanese sausage sandwish (to die for!) and even ordered Barbar twice more on New Years’ day to grease out our hangover!
($) A trendy, cosy, casual French dining spot. The staff is friendly and they offer a prompt service. The inside is decorated in a rustic, raw style, with high ceilings creating plenty of space within and dim lights, creating a cosy environment. The portions are abundant and the presentation very inviting. They’re famous for serving their signature sauces on all their dishes, having their own house wine and a range of beers to choose from, to go along with the friendly service and atmosphere.
The Original Falafel M Sahyoun
($) This place may be the provider of the best falafels in Beirut and even the world, according to one of its past visitors. The shop itself might be too small to dine in, but whoever said the best things come in small packages was right about this outlet. It is also named as one of the “must visit” places in Beirut, converting even non believers (of falafel) to falafel lovers. The flavours of the crunchy, flaky falafels seem to be oerfectly accompanied by companions such as fresh tomatoes and onions, really reaching for the stars in terms of flavour. They offer a “clean and fresh” or “hot and spicy”. It seems like you should try your level best to try them both, and you might be able to do this in one sitting too, considering how delicious they are.
($) This bakery is said to satisfy all your breakfast dreams. This bakery has the feel of being a family run, cosy place, minimally decorated but mainly using its aromas and flavours as its decoration. It serves authentic armenian dishes such as lachmacun, cooked in a traditional oven right in front of the awaiting customers. Its always busy, with many deliveries constantly going out, so you can always expect freshly baked goods to be served. All goods are to be eaten hot hot out of the oven, savoured in their small space or to be taken away. The bakery might be difficult to find so take their phone number along with you to avoid disappointment. The delicious, affordable bakes have cast a spell on all its visitors.
($$) Ferdinand is as chilled out as Ferdinand the bull, who preferred smelling flowers rather fighting. It is conveniently located in Mahatma Ghandi street right in the heart of Hamra. Ferdinand the Bull is a wonderful symbol for peace, and that’s exactly what you’ll get here. Friendly atmosphere, simplicity and happiness, a place offering great cocktails, strictly reserved for those above the age of 21, where likeminded people can gather inside or in their outdoor seating. The bartenders care that you order something good, and will correct you if you don’t, and then put up a show for you as you watch them making it, so Ferdinand will be a real all around experience. The food is equally inviting and beautiful, ensuring you leave feeling completely satisfied and wanting more.
($$) Jai serves Asian and Thai cuisine, with an open kitchen concept to leave you speechless as the chefs bustle away in the kitchen to give you authentic Thai flavours in the middle of Beirut. The space is casual and easy going, with attention given to the presentation of dishes. Its a very interesting setting, with a single big table in the centre and the others spilling into the streets, Jai offers an authentic Thai experience also in terms of their seating arrangements. The food will leave you discussing it well after you’ve finished the meal, from different kinds of dumplings, to spring rolls, fish cakes, amazing tom yum soup and authentic rice and curry dishes. It is excellent value for money.
($$) Appetito Trattoria is sure to work up your appetite by just reading on the dishes they have on offer like typical italian gnocchi, ravioli, risotto and a delicate tiramisu! The setting is typical Italian, some might say, with red and white chequered table clothes and beige toned interiors. You will definitely feel like you’re visiting a little country side italian eatery. They also have pizzas on offer, and all their dishes are made using premium Italian ingredients. The staff is friendly and will help you make great combinations between starters and mains, giving you a taste of a little bit of everything.
($$) This restaurant offers authentic Lebanese cuisine, carefully detailed plates and a curated experience comprising shisha. The beauty of the presentation of the plates is only surpassed by its flavours. You can find authentic starters such as fattoush, muhammara, labneh and reasonably priced mains consisting of mixed kebabs, and a range of other dishes. The atmosphere is welcoming, with seating on the terrace for those who prefer. The environment is easy going and the perfect setting to enjoy freshly made food.
($$) It’s safe to say that their dishes are as beautiful, cosy and colourful as the restaurant itself. You’ll be welcomed into a relaxed environment where you can try their variety of starters and mains, everything from authentic lebanese dips to meats to vegetarian options. Their main customers are locals so you’re assured an authentic experience. The staff is friendly and will guide you through the ordering process if you need help. The more the merrier, you might think, simply to be able to order more and try out all their dishes.
Em Sherif Restaurant
($$$) The restaurant is famed for their set menus, which can comprise up to 30 dishes sometimes! It ensures a unique experience and an opportunity to try out a range of dishes without feeling guilty for over ordering! The atmosphere, as the dishes, look almost royal, and many say that this is a “must try” if you find yourself in Beirut. Indulging is a must here, and you can also find several fusion dishes aside from the traditional, if you enjoy a twist to the traditional dishes.
($$$) This designer restaurant is sure to stop you in your tracks as you enter. Everything is Instagram worthy, from their floor to the green furniture to match, the ceiling height large white separators, to the relaxed outdoor setting, it all makes Liza perfect for special occasions but also for that exclusive lunch spot. It is even voted as one of the most beautiful restaurants in the world by Condenast Traveller. The dishes are nothing second to the interior deco, and the staff is trained to help you choose the best wine to suit your palate. The set menu concept allows for all the dishes to be savoured.
($$$) This restaurant offers Lebanese cuisine, as well as international, Chinese and Indian dishes. The carefully designed interiors exude elegance and set the tone for a sublime experience. Their buffet table has a variety of dishes to suit any palate, from their home smoked salmon, authentic manakish tossed and stretched right in front of your eyes, various live stations, freshly baked authentic goodies and salad bars. The breakfast buffet is noted for being well stacked and dishing out a range of flavours. Whatever your palate is, this restaurant simply cannot fail you.
($$$) Society is an upscale, modernly decorated restaurant, serving a range of dishes, from Italian to French, from burgers to a variety of salads. One could say they offer an affordable fine dining experience. Their desserts are all recommended and range from the famous Baba au rhum to pate a chox and different tarts. They also do great steaks, cooked to perfection with tantalizing sauces.
($$$) A luxuriously designed restaurant, with rich pink interiors and modern classic paintings. It is definitely the definition of fine dining, pricey, with small, well catered and presented dishes. They’re famed to have the best wines and meat selection, dishing out amazing steak experiences.