Abdallah1 xmfslv

Beef and chicken shawarma from Abdallah's Bakery

Image: Alice Levitt

It should be no surprise that Harris County’s Arab-American population is twice the size of any other Texas county. And while many restaurants serving food from that part of the world label themselves as Mediterranean, we sought out our favorites specializing in the ancient and modern culinary traditions of Lebanon.

Abdallah’s Bakery

More than a bakery and several steps up from the average cafeteria-style joint, this is the home of our favorite beef and chicken shawarmas in town. The full-flavored, crisp-edged, homemade meats are served with a choice of uncommon sides (like okra and eggplant stews) and freshly baked balloons of soft pita. Pair it with a big cup of cool mint tea and sweet, chewy cheese in rosewater syrup.

Arpi’s Phoenicia Deli

In 1983, husband-and-wife Zohrab and Arpi Tcholakian began serving shawarma after he lost his job to the Energy Crisis. Now, almost 35 years later, the Lebanese natives of Armenian ancestry are still at it. Diners can try their sandwiches and platters at their family’s two grand, international markets, Phoenicia Specialty Foods. But for dishes like fried smelts, tangy muhamara dip and braised lamb shanks overseen by Arpi herself, this is the place.

Barbar j4uebe

The Chicken Francisco at Barbar Mediterranean Grill

Image: Alice Levitt

Barbar Mediterranean Grill

Grilled dishes prepared over a charcoal fire are a centerpiece, but while the lamb kebab and half chicken are worth a try, there are also lesser-known Lebanese favorites to discover here. The Chicken Francisco, for example, which originated at this restaurant’s inspiration, the giant Barbar located in Beirut, is an unlikely combination of grilled chicken with corn, cheese, mayonnaise and pickles, best served with lemonade filled with fresh mint leaves.

Café Lili

Lili Bejjani’s restaurant is the perfect respite after a day spent up the street from the Galleria. Visit on a Saturday, the only day Bejani serves kibbeh nayyeh, a finely chopped steak tartare. Follow it with a kebab plate and an order of tabbouleh salad.

Cedarsbakery xxhjck

Lebanese pizza from Cedars Bakery

Image: Alice Levitt

Cedars Bakery

There are other places to get manakish in Houston, but this is the place, and it’s almost exclusively devoted to the Lebanese pizza. On weekends, get shawarma in a wrap or on a pie. The rest of the week, toppings are decidedly simple: halloumi cheese and sesame seeds, spiced ground meat and cheese, or spinach. Wash it down with a bottle of Turkish wild-strawberry-flavored mineral water.

Mary’z Mediterranean Restaurant

Settle in with a Lebanese beer on the patio, and either breathe in or try to avoid the hookah smoke. The Mary’z Sampler is the smartest way to try a cross-section of the pastries that are the restaurant’s strong suit. The kibbehs all but melt when you bite in, grape leaves are suitably tangy, and spinach pies are fried for an extra level of flavor.

Petitcafe1 tjxq8l

Image: Alice Levitt

Petit Café Mediterranean Grill

Lebanon’s time as a French colony gives this restaurant both its name and its rich desserts, like crème brûlée. But the most lovable choices are deeply Levantine, whether the homemade maqanek sausage, flavored with cinnamon and lemon sauce; the ultra-smooth hummus; or the puckery, mint-suffused Lebanese salad—and lucky you, the latter two come with all entrées.

Salam Mediterranean Grill & Hookah

The long-marinated shawarma here is stuffed into pitas or served in platters paired with garlicky sautéed spinach or gyro meat. We like the thinly sliced, deep-red chicken shawarma the most, especially served with tangy hummus and rice pilaf dotted with peas and almonds. There’s nothing like lemon-and-rose-spiked black tea to get you in the mood for a meal.

Sayad Mediterranean Grill

The lemon “mintade” is the best frozen drink in town, and the fresh-baked, puffy bread with za’atar-flavored oil could make a meal in itself. But save room for the sayadieh, an elegant dish of fish laid over spiced rice and topped with almonds and charred onions. For dessert, the cheesy konafa naama is served hot from the pan and flavored with rose.

Suzies fzye1c ludtaf

Ghraybeh cookies from Suzie's Pastry Shoppe

Image: Alice Levitt

Suzie’s Pastry Shoppe

Lebanon’s colonial past is clear in the offerings here. Take home European layer cakes, a range of Mediterranean baklavas, and buttery Lebanese pistachio pastries all in one bag. Or settle on one and eat it at a table out front—we have a longstanding addiction to chef-owner Suzie Elaridi’s crumbly ghraybeh cookies.

Filed under
Show Comments
In this Article

Suzie’s Pastry Shoppe

$ Middle Eastern 8619 Richmond Ave.

Lebanon's onetime status as a French colony is clear in the offerings at this sweet bakery. Take home European layer cakes, a range of Mediterranean baklavas...

Sayad Mediterranean Grill

$$ Mediterranean 12225 Westheimer Rd.

The crunchy falafels at Sayad are stellar and the tabouli incredibly fresh, but grilled meats and seafood are the signature dishes at this 100% halal restaur...

Salam Mediterranean Grill & Hookah

$ Mediterranean 9502 N. Sam Houston Parkway

Petit Café

$$ Mediterranean 1250 Eldridge Pkwy.

Packed almost since the day it opened in 2008, Petit Cafe is a popular option for lighter fare thanks to its heart-healthy Mediterranean menu. For lunch or d...

Mary’z Lebanese Cuisine

$$ Middle Eastern Multiple Locations

Family-owned restaurant Mary’z Lebanese Cuisine has been around for eight years, with Mary Fakhoury running the kitchen. This Lebanese mother’s cuisine of co...

Cedars Bakery

$ Mediterranean 8619 Richmond Avenue

Editor’s Pick

Cafe Lili Lebanese Grill

$$ Middle Eastern 5757 Westheimer Rd., #112

Family-owned and operated, the simply furnished Cafe Lili has long been a Houston favorite. Lili Bejjani and her husband are from Beirut, and they proudly po...

Barbar Mediterranean Grill

$ Middle Eastern 7917 Westheimer Rd.

The usual kebabs, dips and sandwiches are available, but Barbar, named for one of Beirut's most famous restaurants, is more comprehensive. There are homemade...

Arpi’s Phoenicia Deli

$ Mediterranean 12151 Westheimer Rd.

Ethnically Armenian but a native of Lebanon, Arpi Tcholakian has been serving up her signature brand of Middle Eastern fare for more than 30 years. A shawarm...

Abdallah's Bakery

$ Mediterranean 3939 Hillcroft St.