I’m not exactly sure why, but I had never been to Lebanese Taverna until a few weeks ago. Maybe because it’s technically a chain (albeit a small one.) That said, I’m lightening up a bit on that mindset, as many restaurants are expanding on good concepts, a category Lebanese Taverna definitely falls into.

Friends have raved. I mean they LOVE this place. The hummus. The happy hour deals. “You have to get the lamb shank”, one friend said. “We went for my wife’s birthday, it’s her favorite.” “Ooh, let’s meet there for happy hour, it’s like endless hummus!” I am kicking myself for not going sooner…

Then, something nice happened. The folks at Lebanese Taverna invited me in for a meal. So, this post is what is referred to as a “sponsored post”, because they offered to pay me to write about it. That’s happening for me more and more now – and it’s good and bad. I don’t want to always do things like this, but then I also want to keep an open mind. If I have heard good things about the restaurant, product, whatever it is, I will consider it. I look at their social media, check out the menu, ask around about chef or management, etc. I never want to plug something that doesn’t fit me. That would just be so wrong and well, icky. Also, I have a caveat…if you invite me in and I agree to come, if I don’t like it, the deal is off. I can’t write great things about a place if I don’t actually like it. That was not a problem with Lebanese Taverna because I really enjoyed it!

I invited my friend Jess to join me for lunch and it was a beautiful warm weekday. Harbor East is such a nice place to be when the weather is nice. We decided to sit inside near a window for purposes on photography (ahhhh, my life in restaurants. I never end up sitting where I want.) We were greeted with warm housemade pita and olive oil with Zaatar. The chef came out to say hello and he could not have been more warm and welcoming. He asked if it would be alright if he just sent out some Lebanese Taverna classics, along with a few seasonal dishes he’d been playing around with – of course, we agreed. I also asked if he could not send out more than we needed to really eat, as I didn’t want to be too full or waste any of his food.

Drinks! Well, since it was lunch and we both had to go back to work, we kept it booze-free. Both of our drinks were very nice. We had a Pomenade (pomegranate, lemonade, orange) and a Taverna Breeze (pomegranate green tea, simple syrup, Moroccan mint tea.) A few cocktails caught my eye, so I think I need to get back for happy hour soon. In particular, the For Fig’s Sake  (Evan Williams bourbon, lemon, fig syrup, Benedictine) and the Milk & Honey (Johnny Walker Black scotch, chickpea milk, clover honey) sound like cocktails I might like to try.

First was the Chef’s Platter: a perfect sampling of hummus, baba ghanoush, tabouleh, grape leaves, falafel, fatayer spinach, kibbeh with lebneh, m’saka, shakshouk. We crushed it! Hummus is one of my favorite things and theirs did not disappoint. I am thinking next time I will just get the hummus platter and that might be my lunch. We plowed on, and next came a substantial (and beautiful) beet salad and then, an octopus dish, which was fried quickly and served over a date celery walnut salad. Then, the lamb shank arrived. Gasps. The Lebanese Taverna Lamb Mouzat is slow cooked in the oven for four hours and served over a mix of fava beans, sautéed tomatoes and artichokes and drizzled with a lamb reduction. It, of course, fell off the bone. Very nice.

Then, dessert. Our server recommended the doughnuts with honey saffron syrup and yogurt-milk pudding. Holy moly, they were hot and completely delicous – the perfect way to end the meal. We also got Turkish coffee and that was crazy. I forgot how thick and strong it can be – wow – I was happy to take a few sips and basically fly home.

Thank you, Lebanese Taverna for having me in. I will be back for sure.