Beirut's Nejmeh Square Losing its Luster

My office is a stone's throw from Nejmeh Square (Place de l'Etoile), so I often stroll there on my lunch hour. It's saddening to see how almost every food outlet that once thrived with throngs of locals and tourists has now gone out of business.

Last year, Costa Coffee and TGI Friday's shut down, testament to the fact that even big British or American chains can fail in a dire economy. Don Edwardo, a mysterious steak house, sushi lounge, and salad bar all in one and across from Al Balad, also threw in the towel.

Le Relais de l'Entrecote, the renowned Parisian steak-frites restaurant with two other locations in Lebanon--Monot and Verdun--closed, as did Scoozi, its next-door Italian-Japanese neighbor. Both restaurants were operated under the Boubess Group, which is now launching new dining projects like Metropole in Minet el Hosn and Pomodoro in Zaituna Bay.

Duo is now suspiciously Don, but it seems the salad bar was a permanent fixture because it stayed put. Clever on the part of the new restaurant's management--regulars will wander in not suspecting a thing.

The only joints still drawing in passers-by are the arguileh cafes: Karamna, Mi-Chaud, Petit Cafe. Le Ragueneau, a knockoff of Le Relais de l'Entrecote but at more affordable prices, is still in business--clearly, diners prefer price to reputation.

Maybe Beirut Souks stole all the hype because it offers shopping and dining pleasure. Maybe it's because Nejmeh Square is so inaccessible to cars and pedestrians, barricaded from every entry point and surrounded by soldiers. One thing's certain, though: Nejmeh Square is regretfully passé.

Photo courtesy of M. El-Saad

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  2. Great article. It seems as the lebanese are so mesmerized with anything American ranging from lifestyle to food , various goods and products. Almost to the point of not wanting anything to do with their culture and lebanese food and preferring American eatery. Isn't lebanese food healthier than American? If so then why the lebanese are so fascinated with everything American where in reality it's not necessarily better

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    1. Well actually Lebanese cuisine is being redefined and reinvented, as you see with restaurants like Enab, Babel, and Frida. But yes, there is a certain hype for everything foreign, and with the intense competition among dining outlets in general, even big names like Relais are closing their doors.

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