The azure sky and cool breeze demanded a lunch outside today. My friend, Harry, has been after me to try Cedars Lebanese downtown and today presented the perfect opportunity for some top down, wind in our hair, music playing loud traveling to the hip ethnic eatery. The streets were buzzing with Farmer’s Market shoppers but I easily slipped into a parking place just a short walk away from the restaurant. They have very limited outdoor seating and you may have to wait, but it was worth it on such a gorgeous day. It is rather smallish inside so be ready to be cozy if you decide to wait.
As we waited, I looked around the interior. They have some beautiful landscapes on the walls and the door is one of those heavy wooden ones with multiple square panels I love. The kitchen is open to view and boasts efficient work space. As I was admiring the mix of old architecture and new fixtures, we were called. We ambled to our table and started perusing the expansive menu. Lots of my faves- falafel, hummus, baba ganoush, tabbouleh- made it hard to choose. We decided to start with the Vegetarian Sampler so we could try a little of everything.
The pita wedges were thin and perfect for dipping into the tahini-scented hummus. The baba ganoush was equally tasty with the earthy eggplant undertones. The star for me though was the falafel. It was crispy outside and a smooth grain inside- delicious with a dash of the tahini sauce provided. I can’t say I was a fan of the tabbouleh. It was just tomato and parsley seasoned with lemon juice. I like mine heartier with some obvious bulghar to soak up some of the wetness.
The appetizer was quite large but I did not want to miss out on some of the entrees so we ordered a couple to split among the table. I love a good shawarma and they had beef and chicken. We went with the beef shawarma platter and the chicken shawarma wrap.
The beef shawarma was enormous! The beef was shredded in nice size bites and seasoned fragrantly with cumin and coriander. It was tossed with grilled onions and tomatoes. On the side was a heaping mound of rice laced with crunchy noodles and tahini sauce. The wrap was equally tasty with the same fragrant seasoning treatment except chicken. My only complaint about this wrap was it needed either some tahini sauce or a shmear of hummus to bring it all together. They were both tasty lunch fare. Sharing was definitely the right idea. Between the huge appetizer and the large entree portions and our need for some dessert, we did not finish everything.
The dessert menu held many interesting options including one of our favorites, baklava. Each dessert is a bite-sized single serving so again sharing was the way to go. We ordered the baklava and a shortbread, date pastry called Maamoul. The baklava was flaky and dense. The honey and nut mixture melded with the buttery layers it was sandwiched between. The Maamoul was the star. The shortbread had that crumbly, melt-in-your mouth texture and the date filling was smooth and sweet. The dates were perfectly blended and a delicious match to the buttery shortbread.
All in all, lunch was fantastic! I noticed they had some great happy hour specials for another day and a “Mezza” tasting menu option for another time. If you are feeling adventurous or just love the flavors of Lebanon, make the trip to Cedars.