Tantalizing Treats from the Coast to the Mountains

For many of us, the undisputed beauty of Lebanon lies in the quality of food and drink available to denizens. If we Lebanese are blessed with one thing, it’s a highly discerning palate and a deep-seated appreciation for food, no matter the cuisine or category.

Here are a few of my newfound favorites bejeweling the Lebanese frontier, from the coast to the mountains!

Gilbert’s Burger Bites

Having grown up in California, I know a good burger when I see (and sink my canines into) one. The Lebanese have always had a love affair with burgers, but if you grew up in the 90s, a burger around here ubiquitously meant a thin kafta-like patty smothered with coleslaw and fries, tucked inside a sesame seed bun large enough to bury a baseball. While nostalgia-inducing, that specimen belongs in our past.

Since moving to Lebanon in 2011, I’ve enjoyed a number of decent burgers. But the crowning jewel is without doubt Gilbert’s Burger Bites. I’m not sure why it’s dubbed “Bites,” because their burgers are anything but. For the uninitiated, start with the “Classy” classic burger, featuring an Angus beef patty seared to a pink core, cheddar, tomato, pickles, onions and thousand island sauce (US $8.00).

The real magic however happens inside the Triple Smashed Burger, showcasing a trio of cheddar-laden Angus patties with loosely-packed meat, onions, pickles, and thousand island (US$ 12.00). It should be criminal to make a burger this deliriously delicious. And be warned: it is huge. Indulge slowly, and consume moderately.

GBB boasts two locations, one along the Antelias-Rabieh highway, and the other at the Tabarja roundabout. I’ve tried the former for both dine-in and take-away, and it’s consistent!

The Triple Smashed Burger at Gilbert's Burger Bites

GBB on Instagram

Al Abdalla

It’s no wonder Al Abdalla has rather quickly expanded beyond Lebanon to Iraq and UAE – their barbecue chicken is impressive. Order a large Chicken Sandwich (US$ 7.50), and you’ll know what I mean. Replete with fragrant charcoal-grilled chicken and slathered with a duo of garlic and chili sauces, the Arabic pita bread wrap is then brushed with a sumac-infused oil and pressed to the grill. It’s zesty, it’s spell-binding, and it’s definitely a unique take on Lebanese chicken sandwiches.

Chicken Sandwich at Al Abdalla

Al Abdalla on Instagram

Chawarma Diclan

A friend directed us to this shawarma hotspot in Bikfaya, which we had quite some trouble locating despite its position along the main Bikfaya avenue. While its perch may seem subtle and understated, its shawarma wraps are bold and packed with lean meat. This is the first time my conscience didn’t gnaw at me as I wolfed down the sandwich ravenously. With a perfect dose of tahini, parsley, tomato, and pickle, the meat shawarma won’t leave you feeling heavy or bothered. Afterward, you can proceed happily to the Bachir stronghold down the street for good old-fashioned Lebanese bouza.

Elmir Craft Beer

It took a wine festival in the heart of Beirut to introduce me to what might arguably be Lebanon’s finest craft beer. I sampled it on tap, and wow – what an experience! The “Aleph,” a medium-full Lebanese Terroir beer brewed with carob molasses, is truly the nectar of the gods, and registers an alcohol content level of 8.5%. It seems right to borrow the wine term “full-bodied” to describe this liquid gold. Anfé (4.8%), referring to the northern coastal city known for its salt marshes, is distinctively dry and sour with a pleasantly salty finish. For a classic brew, the IPA (5.5%) is robust and quenching.

Elmir is sold at a number of retail stores and served on tap at various restaurants, pubs and bars (see their Instagram posts for the exhaustive lists).

Elmir's draft beer stand at Vinifest 2023

Elmir on Instagram

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