My No-Brainer Casual Food Favorites
Nothing new or earth-shattering has been going on in my endless quest for gourmet adventure. Which is fine by me, because that means I get to call upon all my tried and true favorites.
These days, nothing says comfort like going home and stirring up a rich linguini pesto. If it’s a simple Lebanese bite I’m fancying, I craft my light take on manakish with crispy thin tannour bread, Jordanian zaatar, and countryside olive oil from Southern Lebanon. But when even that seems like an arduous affair, I’ve got a ready slate of go-to fast casual food options I like to dub my “cheat sheet.”
Allow me to introduce my delicious darlings.
Breakfast at TSC Signature with Pizzaiolo Hassan Akkary
You’ve all heard me wax poetic every time it comes to the inimitable Hassan Akkary, who splits his days between TSC Signature in Beirut Souks and Casa dell’Olivo just off the Tayouneh roundabout. Nearly every morning until noon, catch him at the bakery inside TSC, bustling to fill customers’ demands for his secret-recipe saj bread wraps.
The classics are a real treat, notably labneh with a drizzle of olive oil, slender slices of tomato, and a bouquet of rocket leaves. If the appetite rages, try the kishik with walnuts – you’ll be sated for a good 6-8 hours. And if you ask gently enough (mentioning Beirutista to boot!), Hassan might just concede and render up one of his latest concoctions, whipped Merci Chef! goat cheese specked with fresh baby thyme leaves and crunchy green apple. Vegetarian never tasted so satisfying!
Pizzaoiolo Hassan Akkary
|Saj flatbread stuffed with goat cheese in olive oil, with baby thyme leaves and green apple slivers|
Pizzaoiolo Hassan Akkary
Plats du Jour from Bou Melhem
It’s not easy when your mother lives 7,439 miles from you. Granted, the dozens of Tupperware-packed meals she stashes in my freezer are (were) a godsend, but they do deplete rather swiftly. In their stead, I’ve discovered a decent alternative in Bou Melhem’s plats du jour.
Let’s start with taste and texture: veritably homemade, with all the right seasonings, ingredients, and garnishes. Most recently, I sampled (read: wolfed down) the moghrabieh, comprising giant couscous pearls with stewed onions, chicken, meat, and chickpeas. The flavors wafted throughout the office, summoning colleagues nearby to peer at the generous portion size—easily 1.5-2, depending on the capacity of your tummy.
|Lebanese moghrabieh with stewed onions, chicken and chunks of beef|
Accompanied by fresh pita bread, a side salad, and dessert, Bou Melhem’s lunchbox is easily the best deal in town, setting you back a mere USD 12.
Sin el Fil
Kafta & Taouk Wraps from Kababji
What I’ve come to appreciate about Kababji is the ability to meticulously tailor your sandwich—from bread type to sauce and fillings—without incurring any added costs. You heard right! Trying to eat healthy? Opt for the oat bread at no extra charge. Want to beef up your taouk wrap with supplemental garlic paste, fries and a lick of peppery sauce (“rib il 7ar”)? The base price of LBP 6,500 won’t rack on any other fees. Why can’t other eateries in Lebanon follow that model?
Besides the shish taouk sandwich, Kababji’s Intabli kafta (LBP 7,000) is glorious, cushioned with creamy hummus and aromatic with spices.
|Besides the wraps, Kababji's Light Taouk platter (LBP 20,000) is exceptional|
The only odd thing is that the Beirut Souks branch never has the Light Kafta in stock. Is it produced in such meager quantities that it never lasts through the afternoon, or is there simply no demand that they quit supplying it altogether?
Kafta & Taouk Wraps from Al Halabi
Few know this, but the storied Lebanese fine dining institute Al Halabi in Antelias, renowned for its polished black-tie service and exceptional cuisine, has a take-away kitchen downstairs. Pop in and order one of their numerous plats du jours or sandwiches on offer.
|The quality of meat at Al Halabi is unmatched (Photo source: instagram.com/alhalabirest)|
As at Kababji, I invariably home in on the Intabli and taouk wraps. But here, they’re far more minimalist. Taouk comes bare save for a lick of garlic (go double dose!), and the kebab draws on hummus for a heaven-made match. Sandwiches are lightly charred on the grill before being served piping hot, and they’re worth the 15- to 20-minute wait.
Pizza Delivery from Zaatar W Zeit
We only very occasionally elect to deliver food to the house, but when we do, it’s most likely Zaatar W Zeit’s pizzas. Baked on a signature thin flatbread that won’t upset your stomach or waistline, these pies are fairly light and really pile on the ingredients. I go gaga for their greens, er, Veggie Pizza, layering pesto, zucchini, olives, jalapeno, rocket leaves, fresh onions, and cherry tomatoes, with cubes of feta and a smattering of mozzarella (LBP 14,000).
|The Veggie Pizza at Zaatar W Zeit|
Complement the meal with a side of golden wedges, lightly battered spears of potato with a pillow-soft interior. But I’ll be honest—LBP 7,000 for a box of these is pricey. They’re only spuds, after all, Lebanon’s most economical produce.
Zaatar W Zeit
Delivery hotline: 1523
Zaatar W Zeit
Delivery hotline: 1523
Milkshakes from Shakeaway
A couple weeks ago, UK-chain Shakeaway opened its first outlet in Lebanon on the upper floor of Beirut Souks, just past Nike and Mike Sport. Specializing in milkshakes, frozen yogurt, shaved ice, and smoothies, Shakeaway boasts over 180 flavors and countless combinations thereof. Their ingredients are decidedly British, too, featuring the likes of Jaffa cakes, Bourbon biscuits, Curly Wurly, and Hobnobs.
The menu in Lebanon borrows heavily from that of the UK operation, but there are Lebanese-inspired blends as well, including meghli, baklava, and namoura. Personally, I relish the Sophie shake, evoking vanilla cupcake with lemon curd and coconut shavings (LBP 11,000 for the regular size).
|In the foreground, an Oreo-Hershey's milkshake; |
in the background, the Sophie evoking vanilla cupcake and lemon curd