1500 S Carrollton Ave
New Orleans, LA 70118
Napoleon's Rating - **/*****
New Orleans has a good deal of inexpensive Middle Eastern restaurants spread across its neighborhoods. They all do gyros, kebabs and falafel and go through pita bread by the pallet and hummus by the gallon. Lebanon's follows that same basic plan, but does it better than most. There's greater attention to detail and more variety on the menu. This is a low-cost choice for an adventurous meal of great flavors.
Lebanon's has an attractive dining room with great big windows facing Carrollton Avenue, a big mural of belly dancers and Middle Eastern scenes and various swords and hookah pipes laying around as décor. With Tulane and Loyola so close, it's common to see the room packed with college-age kids, and maybe a few of their professors. It's loud and bustling, especially when several tables are joined for a big party. The sidewalk tables outside are especially attractive when the weather is nice.
Service is about on par with the price and overall vibe of Lebanon's. The waitresses keep things snappy, and can give you at least cursory descriptions of the less-familiar menu items. They are basically there to ferry kebabs and hummus from the kitchen and supply glasses for BYOB wine service.
If you come with a few people, the combination appetizer platter is a good overview of the greatest hits, like hummus, baba ghanouj and grape leaves. But one of Lebanon's specialties is its array of less common dishes, like the musaha spread, a colorful, crunchy mix of peppers, celery, eggplant, sun-dried tomatoes and olive oil. Bathenjan is another spread, and it's smoky from roasted eggplant and spicy from garlic and jalapenos. Fried bulbs of kibby, or cracked wheat filled with ground beef, pine nuts and onions, are like little self-contained meatloaves.
Even if you come to Lebanon's with your heart set on a gyro sandwich or chicken kebab platter, check out the specials board first. One of the frequent specials is the musakka, which is a huge mound of basmati rice layered over with potato, eggplant and ground beef, tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese. The shrimp kebab on the regular menu is also a good choice, with a dozen or so big shrimp charred a bit on the grill. Rack of lamb is the most ambitious (and expensive) entrée, but it's well worth it for this plate of glistening, well-seasoned chops. Of the more conventional Middle Eastern dishes, a good bet here is the beef shawarma, which is a little like fajitas, served on a sizzling plate with pita bread and salad.
Those who still manage to have much room left after dinner here usually get a piece of baklava, the sticky, honey-soaked squares of filo dough and walnuts.
Like many local Middle Eastern restaurants, Lebanon's serves no alcohol. So, like all those others, the house drink is Lebanese iced tea, flavored with rose water and sprinkled with pine nuts. From there, it's BYOB, with sturdy glasses and corkscrews provided for self-service of whatever you bring. There is no corkage fee, and this policy helps keep the bills low.
Value is a big appeal of Lebanon's. Practically all the appetizers are less than $5, and the same goes for most of the pita sandwiches. Most entrees are between $11 and $15. Portions are large and filling. Split an appetizer, bring your own wine, and two people can have a nice meal here for less than $35.
In a crowded field of competitors, Lebanon's goes above and beyond. The basics of its flavorful Middle Eastern cooking are well done, and lesser-known dishes become a real specialty. It suits the bill for a casual date, a family meal, a solo lunch or a big group of friends.