The 15 best restaurants in Beirut
When I close my eyes think about Beirut, what comes to mind is all the amazing food I had there. Beirut in a beautiful city and of all the things you can do in Beirut checking out their food scene should be at the top of your list. The restaurant scene in Beirut really has exploded over the past few years. The smell from the street food to the impeccable fine dining makes my mouth water just thinking about it. Lebanese food is known all over the world and justly so. Food is a big part of Lebanese culture, and it comes through in the richness of what Lebanese cuisine has to offer. Their use of the freshest produce grown right on their doorstep, high-quality spices and herbs, the most tender meat and thousands of years of cooking tradition makes it the perfect travel destination for a foodie.
Below I will introduce the top 15 restaurants. I also decided to give you my top recommendations for ice cream and bakeries as well. You find the top affordable restaurants in Beirut further down in the list under cheap eats. The fancy restaurants in Beirut are many but my top picks for fine dining are “Em Sherif” and Babel Bay, the last one being one of the top Beirut seafood restaurants. No fast food available on the list unless you count the the original and very popular Falafel M Sahyoun that serves the most epic falafel in Lebanon I’d say. Rest assured that all the restaurants on my list are taking safety measures as per always and in these new challenging times as well. I hope you get to try and enjoy as many of these city restaurants as possible on your next visit to Beirut!
The 15 best restaurants in Beirut
Breakfast & Brunch | The Barn | The sud restobar | Al Falamanki Raouche | Lunch | Em sherif | Onno bistro | T-marbouta | Dinner | Mezyan | Babel bay | Ferdinand | Meat the fish | Cheap eats | Cafè em Azih | Falafel m Sahyoun | Ice cream & bakeries | Orso bianco | Boulangerie beurre | Fern ghattas
Breakfast & brunch
1. The barn
The Barn is located in the heart of the area Gemmayze. It is a small place, with a cozy outside area and they serve the most delicious organic food you can imagine. They serve lunch and dinner as well, but you should really go here for their breakfast. They advertise themselves as a healthy place and serve everything from free-range “eggsquiste” dishes to chia puddings and, the ones you should really go for, their toasts! My favorite is the farmhouse feta cheese topped with dates, almonds and agave syrup. The best thing? You can choose to split your toast in different sections, taking you from salty labneh (middle eastern cream cheese) topped with zaatar spice and cucumber to semi-sweet with raspberry, pistachios and dried rose flower and then on to dessert with my personal favorite blueberry, crunchy peanut butter and hemp seeds. Make sure to try their signature hot chocolate. As a coffee drinker, I was very sceptic about switching to a sweeter morning drink but I was not disappointed. It really was something ells!
2. The sud restobar
Every Saturday and Sunday between 11 am to 4 pm the Sud Restobar serves a brunch you need to write home about. You´re greeted with smiles all over, a nice atmosphere and either different options of set brunch menus or á la carte items. As I am a sucker for eggs, I really loved the soft-boiled egg brioche. A perfectly cooked soft-boiled egg served on the velvetiest brioche bun, topped with parmesan, wild arugula, and parmesan cream. If you want to try the set menu, go for the Lebanese formula. For 42 USD you get a manouche (middle eastern pizza) with wild zaatar, tomatoes, sumac and onions, eggs your way served with toast, labaneh and vegetables and a beverage of your choice. It will keep you full the whole day, so don´t worry about the price.
3. Al Falamanki Raouche
Starting Saturdays at 11 am for 20 USD Al Falamanki Raouche really hits your brunch cravings for traditional Lebanese food. With a buffet that properly celebrates the Lebanese cuisine, traditional décor, beautiful ceramic tiles that lend the perfect air of tradition and style and with visitors of all ages this is a place that is a must-visit. It is the perfect place to smoke shisha and play backgammon after having devoured in Arabic delicacies such as hummus, fattoush, foul, kebbe and manaouche. Add some eggs with shanklish, a Lebanese flavorful cheese, to the buffet and this place will stay in your memory forever.
4. Em Sherif
Em Sherif is really a must when visiting Beirut. Em Sherif is a fine-dining Oriental restaurant with authentic Arabic cuisine specializing in bringing back old traditions in a modern way. It has a daily dish that promises to surprise clients’ palette and an endless variety of mezze and Lebanese food. And of course, to get the authentic feeling, you can smoke shisha out on the terrace after having enjoyed the delicacies this place serves up. Mireille Hayek the chef and founder, or her nickname “Em Sherif” which gave name to her restaurant franchise, is a Lebanese top chef well-known throughout Lebanon, Kuwait and Qatar for her passion for cooking. She takes traditional Arabic recipes and adds her special touch to make them unique and memorable. As it is a high-end restaurant I suggest going there for lunch because it makes it more affordable. For 45 USD you get an extensive variety of Arabic cuisine served mezze style. It is a set menu with no less than 35 mouthwatering dishes.
5. Onno bistro
At Onno Bistro, locate a few streets over from the National Museum, you find the most perfect mix of Armenian and Lebanese food. The team is very knowledgeable and will teach you everything you didn´t know and didn´t know you wanted to know about Armenian food. The complementary pistachio cream with pomegranate and rosewater served after the meal is so good you´ll ask for more. I did and they happily gave me a second round. My top three dishes, not to miss out on here: hummus shawarma, with the most tender lamb, batata harra, spicy potatoes with cilantro and garlic and the muhammara. Muhammara is a spicy dip made with red chilli peppers and walnuts and I cannot stress enough how good it is. Even thinking about it now makes my tastebuds crave another visit.
T-Marbouta is a hidden gem in the Hamra quarter that serves the most mouthwatering Lebanese food. The restaurant is filled with local patrons at all hours of the day and they even have an extensive, and great, vegan menu. Start off with some traditional spreads, some tabbouleh and you should really go for the dolmas! If you´re fed up with mezze, but how could you be? The Kebab Burger with hummus and chilli spread will make you rethink the way you´ve been eating your burgers before. Why aren´t they all made like this? As weird as it might sound, the French fries sandwich is also a total homerun. Arabic flatbread filled with French fries, coleslaw, ketchup and pickles. Can it really be good you wonder? But oh yes it is!
The place is pretty hard to find as any true hidden gem is, but ask around and any local would be happy to take you there. If you´re lucky, they might invite you to join them. But be prepared to undo that top button on your pants as you are in for a lot of food.
Mezyan is an institution in the food scene of Beirut. Serving small Lebanese, Syrian and Armenian mezze in the buzzing atmosphere of the young and hip crowd gathered here, getting their mood going to the tunes of Arabic pop music. …If you want to have a quiet dinner, this is not the place. However, if you want the full Beirut experience, this is definitely the place. Especially if you go there on a Saturday. But you need to book a table and be prepared to get your party mood going. It is located on Hamra street, but there is no sign outside, so you need to enter the Rasamany Building doorway and then walk to the end of the hall. Finally, here try the mante; dumplings with tomato and yoghurt sauce, the chicken liver (their house speciality) with lemon and pomegranate molasses, mtabbal betenjan; eggplant with tahini, sweet potato feta, halloumi cashew with sweet and sour sauce and the cheese rolls. It might sound like a lot but remember it´s mezze and it’s for sharing, so the more the merrier. …and you will need it heading out into the wild Beirut nightlife.
8. Babel bay
Babel Bay offers fine dining with the freshest and delicious Lebanese seafood with a twist. If you want meat, I suggest you go elsewhere. The fish and seafood are really why you come to Babel Bay anyway. In general, I haven´t really found good fish and seafood restaurants in Beirut, but Babel Bay knows what they are doing. Their menu is traditional, yet progressive and they manage to combine the two in the best way possible. It is fine dining at its best. It is hard to describe but think about the flawless Japanese cooking style combined with rustic middle eastern flavors. Traditional mezze combined with the most exquisite raw fish, or grilled octopus, shrimp provençale, whole salt-baked sea bass, soft lobster, crab, you name it. Babel Bay has everything you can wish for and more.
Ferdinand is a hip, cool and sophisticated gastropub that draws the local crowd like nothing else. The cocktails here are made with such care and love, it´s like watching an artist paint. The service is impeccable, if you want something that is not on the menu, they´ll go above and beyond to try to get it for you. The leather sofas, high bar stools, wooden décor, chandeliers and dim lighting draws your thoughts back to the prohibition era and it really adds to the experience. The food leaves nothing more to wish for either. They know what they are doing. The menu has so many intriguing items, but if you should choose one thing and one thing only make it their burger with blueberry jam. The bun, the juicy meat and the jam create an explosion of flavors like nothing you would ever expect from a burger. If you should choose two items, add the whole baked cauliflower to share as a starter. Ferdinand brings you hearty food, flawless cocktails and a great atmosphere with smiles all around.
10. Meat the fish
Meat the fish is the low key casual establishment. You sit at communal tables seated on wooden crates and you order and pay at the counter from a very limited menu. But a very limited menu of some of the best food Beirut has to offer. The menu is made up of the best of what was available at the market that day. The chef chooses the best meat, vegetables, poultry and fish and creates a one-page menu with Mediterranean-Asian fusion dishes that really hits the spot. It brings your mind to an Italian trattoria, with fresh fish and meat on display. No secrets, what you see is what you get. It is so simple and yet they manage to deliver truly complex and gratifying flavors.
11. Cafè em Azih
A self service restaurant with reasonable prices and tasty authentic Lebanese food. The staff makes you feel welcome and right at home. I went for tabbouleh fried kibbeh, fried Lebanese bulgur and meatballs and cheese rolls to start and it left me craving for more so I finished off with a lentil soup. Every dish was made to perfection, and you really get a lot of bang for your buck here.
12. The Original Falafel M Sahyoun
This place has two chairs inside, so it is mainly a place for takeaway. But you shouldn’t come here to take away in my opinion. The Original Falafel M Sahyoun is often referred to as “the world best falafel” and falafel is the only thing served here. They really follow the concept of doing one thing and doing it well. It is a no-frills place and yet the falafel is one of the most refined I’ve ever tried. Served with spicy pickled, mint, tahini and tomatoes. You really can´t go to Beirut, without at least one visit to The Original Falafel M Sahyoun.
13. Orso Bianco
Orso Bianco is hands down the best ice cream place in Beirut and I would know since I´m a sucker for ice cream. I have probably tried them all. It is a traditional Italian gelato place that service cream free from artificial colors and flavors with no additives. There are too many flavors to choose from, so you´ll come back again. …and again. And maybe even again. Luckily you can sample until you find your flavors of the day. For traditional Arabic flavors try Sahlab (middle eastern milk pudding), rose Loukum (Turkish delight), Chestnut and the fig sorbet. For the less adventurous ones, try the almond crunch (to die for), the ginger and the mango sorbet. Oh and then there´s the cheesecake flavor, whisky chocolate, chocolate peanut butter, mulberry…. The list goes on and you just need to try as many as you possibly can.
14. Boulangerie Beurre
With the French heritage in Lebanon, the French bakeries really know how to make French baguettes, crepes, croissants and bread. But at Boulangerie Beurre they know it even a little bit better than the rest. Here you´ll find no less than 15 different types of croissants, pieces of bread and baguettes, all fresh from the oven. They offer freshly made sandwiches as well and a small selection of divine pastries.
15. Fern ghattas
Notorious for their Lebanese pastries, Fern Ghattas serve the best fatayer bi sabenikh (tiny spinach pies) in Beirut. Their lahme bi ajeen (crispy meat pie with a punch of flavor) bites are equally delicious, and if you’re looking for something a little more filling, try their delicious manakish (middle eastern pizza). All delights are of course freshly baked and piping hot.
Which of these restaurants in Beirut sounds the most mouth-watering to you? Let us know in the comments below.
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