April is Arab American Heritage Month, so we’ll be highlighting some of our favorite restaurants and businesses where you can celebrate the culture, heritage, and food that has been contributed by Americans of Arab descent in New Orleans. Let’s celebrate the month the way we do best – by eating.
On the oak tree-lined street of Carrollton Avenue lies one the best Lebanese restaurants in town – Lebanon’s Café. Arguably, nothing goes better with hummus and chicken shawarma than a bottle of your own wine and the sounds of the streetcar while dining al fresco. The lentil soup is thick and creamy, hummus is always fresh, baba ganuj is super flavorful and tasty, and the Lebanese tea comes with pine nuts and a hint of rose water. Whether you order the gyro, chicken shawarma, or lamb chops, it’s all full of flavor. There’s also plenty of vegetarian options, as well, and just as flavorful. You can’t make a reservation and it’s BYOB, so get there early and bring a bottle of wine for the wait. It’s well worth it.
Want to try your hand at Mediterranean cooking? Crescent Market is the perfect place to start. It’s a halal market in Gretna, offering Middle Eastern groceries and dry products, a bakery equipped with specialty desserts, and a knowledgeable butcher with various cuts of meat. The market also has a large offering of spices and oils to go with their delicious, fresh baked pita. The organized aisles and friendly service make the experience that much better.
Byblos, with various locations, has been a New Orleans staple with consistently delicious Middle Eastern fare for years. Between Byblos Restaurant on Metairie Road, Byblos Market on Veterans, and Byblos at the Lakeside Mall, they have made their signature Middle Eastern staples like hummus and gyros accessible. And, the food is always consistent, whether you are dining in at their casual restaurant, picking up a to go order while grabbing groceries at the market, or picking up a quick bite while shopping at the mall.
The family-owned restaurant in a West Bank strip mall might seem unassuming, but don’t underestimate its authenticity. The meal starts with fresh bread, assorted pickled vegetables, and olive oil for dipping. The prices are reasonable and the plates are large, and they come with basmati rice, onions, hummus, and tzatziki sauce, so you definitely get bang for your buck. On hot days, the refreshing Lebanese tea or fresh mint lemonade are great for quenching your thirst and washing down all your food.
Cleo’s has all the Mediterranean fare we all know and love, but with an added bonus: it’s open 24 hours and offers several vegan and vegetarian options as well. It’s housed inside a convenience store in the CBD on Canal Street, so it caters to the lunch crowd, downtown residents, and those who need a late-night cure during a night out. Don’t be fooled by the convenience store and the cafeteria-style service; the dishes come out beautifully plated and packed with delicious food. Cleo’s recently opened a full restaurant location in the French Quarter on Decatur Street too, so you can dine in and stay a while.