Your Guide to the Best Eats in Downtown Beirut
I spend the better half of my day every day in downtown Beirut. I’d say that qualifies as a second home, doesn’t it? Inquisitive by nature, I wile away lunch breaks and afterhours pacing downtown’s different quartiers--I’m confident every security guard and shopkeeper recognizes me readily. I know the area like the back of my hand, and when it comes to the food scene, you may as well join Zomato in dubbing me a city expert.
There are countless options for whatever your palate fancies, be it coffee and a sweet treat, a peppery pizza pie, a happy hour potion, or a lavish Lebanese spread. I’ve gone and done the grunt work to spare you the confusion of where and what. Here are my favorites.
If it’s exclusively the brew you’re after in a pleasant laissez-faire environment, you won’t find a better bet than Starbucks. You could literally spend hours here and not warrant the judgment of staff members. And the baked goods—particularly the muffins—are unrivalled.
But if you’re looking for no more than a quick gossip sesh over a dainty, compact cinnamon roll or an oatmeal-raisin cookie as you watch passersby duck in and out of shops, [Grid] is gold.
|Oatmeal-raisin and chocolate-walnut cookies with drip coffee|
Sure, they’re named for their iconic donuts, but you’d be impressed with how delicious the croissants and bagels at Dunkin actually are. Go all out and get the egg, turkey and cheese garnished with a slew of veggies and slathered with a lick of mustard. It pairs beautifully with DD’s Original Blend black coffee. If you’re all about the donut shape sans the actual donut, try the soft poppy seed bagel with cream cheese and wild berry jam.
|Plain croissant stuffed with eggs, cheese, and turkey|
Grab & Go
I’m not a fan of pre-made sandwiches or wraps. The ingredients tend to dry out, you have no notion of how fresh the bread is, and you’re stuck with whatever’s available—ain’t no room for allergies or preferences. Enter Subway, whose five different bread types (white, wheat, honey oat, parmesan oregano and sesame) are baked around the clock, and whose ingredients you dictate as you watch your sandwich being compiled in front of you. My go-to is the steak and cheese (double up on the steak and opt for Swiss) dressed in tangy Sweet Onion sauce.
|Subway stacks marinated beef and your choice of cheese inside crisp, fresh-baked bread|
Classic Burger Joint
I probably don’t need to clue you in on this one. Classic Burger Joint was conceived five years ago, and they’ve had plenty of time to master the art of a juicy, no-frills burger. And indeed they have, offering nearly a dozen variations of the bunned meaty beauty with chicken, meatless and breadless options, too. Brownie points for their crispy, seasoned fries, which I’ll have you know are bottomless. Don’t forget to add grilled onions, bell peppers and pickles to your burger, free of charge.
|Classic Cheese with all the fixings|
Lebanese restaurants are often unpleasant for the sole reason that you’re expected to order the entire menu of cold mezza, hot mezza, and grilled meat platters to boot. Otherwise you risk attracting reproachful glares from the waiter lords. Not so at Al Balad, where even a mercy meal can be had without prompting a frown. And the food? Coupled with incredibly affordable prices, this is a candidate for some of Lebanon’s most scrumptious eats. The hummus, the mtabbal, the chanklish, the fattouch—it’s all superb. And for a unique warm main, try the chicken kafta. It strikes the perfect balance between seasoning and consistency.
|The quintessential tabbouleh|
Call me a bargain hunter, but I’m of the mind that if you’re gonna discount the booze, you may as well discount the chow, too. After all, more noshing leads to more sloshing—or is it the other way around? New Yorker on Uruguay Street slashes all appetizers by 50% between the hours of 5 and 8 pm, and their bites are rather tasty by pub standards. The tortilla chips are a knock-out with fresh-ground guac, sour cream (er, whipped labneh), and pico de gallo. The paprika-dusted potato fingers with Cheez Whiz to dip also make the mark, and the margherita pizza on tortilla bread will alleviate any hunger spells.
|Perky sliders with McDonald's-style fries, yours for 8,500 LL during happy hour|
Its no-fuss name may not strike you as enticing or creative, but this rooftop is the pinnacle of chill-out lounging in Beirut city. Admittedly outside the downtown epicenter, The Roof offers stunning, unobstructed panoramas of the capital, sea, mountains, and wide yonder. The Japanese-inspired tapas are delectable—don’t miss the siu mai or the gyoza. Cocktails are first-rate. Unlike other rooftops in the vicinity, folks come here to unwind rather than merely gawk at what others are dressed in.
|Gyoza, or Japanese dumplings|
The Grill Room
Again, it may be a few minutes’ stroll from the heart of downtown Beirut, but nothing compares to the topnotch steaks and savors proposed by The Four Seasons Grill Room. Headed by the next-to-none Sotiris Ananiadis from Greece, the restaurant offers both indoor and terrace dining overlooking Zaitunay Bay and promises premium service seconded only by the premium cuisine. From the minute the fresh bread loaf descends to your table accompanied by ramekins of sea salt flakes, coarse black pepper and butter, you’re assured of a marvelous experience. The French Charolaise is a worthy splurge for steak lovers.
|Chef Sotiris preparing rotisserie chicken with painstaking care|
Overall Best Value
The downtown feeding scene is nothing without TSC Signature, a gourmet supermarket boasting a wealth of imported products in addition to over a half-dozen kitchen stations. They’ve got a wood-fired oven pizzeria manned by an incredibly talented pizzaiolo; a very generous salad bar (who else offers smoked salmon and bresaola in their ingredients repertoire?); a sushi conveyor belt; a deli counter; gas-grilled shawarma; grilled meat; fish; and sophisticated plats du jour crafted by the seasoned Executive Chef Amer el Hajj. In terms of price to quality rapport, you simply can’t outdo TSC Signature. They even discount your tab by 20% after 5 pm.
|Salmon and avocado tartare|
|The ultimate veggie lovers' pizza|