Cedars of Lebanon

Chef Karim was a popular Chef at a local Greenbelt restaurant. When they parted ways, he and his wife Maria started saving in order to open their own restaurant. Greatly helped by winning the lottery, they opened their own restaurant in historic Greenbelt Roosevelt Center in late 2018 — Cedars of Lebanon.

Serving traditional Lebanese food, many of the offerings will be similar to anyone who has been to a Middle Eastern restaurant: an assortment of mezze (appetizers), kebabs, and my personal favorite: shawarma. But Chef Karim serves them with his own unique flair.

Appetizers

Mezze platter. Clockwise from top: hummus, baba ghanoush, tabbouleh, grape leave, falafel, kibbeh.

Cedars of Lebanon has all the traditional Mezze (Middle Eastern appetizers) that you would expect: hummus, baba ghanoush, grape leaves, falafel, and kibbeh. These are all excellent and well worth having. They also have tabbouleh, a Lebanese salad made with parsley, tomatoes and onions, seasoned with a lemon garlic vinaigrette. I tend not to order tabbouleh as I don’t find it filling. But I like Cedars’ version. It has a good balance between the parsley and the other ingredients, making it more satisfying. And the lemon garlic dressing they use is top notch.

The appetizers can be ordered individually or with a platter. The platter option is good to share with 3 to 4 people. A basket of pita bread is served with the mezze.

Basket of Pita bread

Soups and Salads

Cedars has three soups on the menu. There is a sweet potato soup and a chicken and vegetable soup, neither of which I have tried. But I highly recommend the third: lentil soup. Packed with small red lentils and leafy green vegetables and having a very flavorful broth, this is a good and hearty soup.

A western style salad — with mixed greens, tomatoes, onions, and carrots — is served with the entrees. It comes with a creamy Italian sauce. Additionally, there are a couple of other salads on the menu that I find more interesting.

Shakshouky salad

Both are eggplant based: M’Saka and Shakshouky. M’Saka has the eggplants with chickpeas and tomatoes, while Shakshouky is eggplant with tomatoes and onions in a vinaigrette sauce. Served with pita bread, they are both great side dishes to have with your meal.

Entrees

For my entree, my go to choice is the shawarma. The meat, either beef (what I prefer) or chicken, is roasted on a spit, shaved, and served in a pita with pickles, lettuce, tomatoes and tahini sauce. There are several places in the DC area where one can get good shawarma, and Cedar’s ranks right up there.

The kebabs are also very good. You can get chicken, lamb, beef, shrimp, or Kafta (spiced ground meat, grilled). I normally get the lamb. The meat, mildly seasoned with Lebanese spices, is crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. With a mild tomato based sauce and served with a roasted jalapeno, grilled onions, and sides of rice and salad, it makes for a great meal.

Mixed Kebab platter

Based solely on the recommendation of a friend, I tried one of the entrees in their Specials section, Fatteh Bathengien. I had never heard of it before, but my friend highly rated it so I gave it a try. It consists of eggplant and chickpeas, layered with pita bread, covered in a warm yogurt sauce and topped with pine nuts. It’s quite different. And quite delicious. My friend was glad, as he was worried I wouldn’t like it. Other items in the Specials section include several kinds of fish, braised steak, and grilled chicken.

Desserts

Cedars of Lebanon also has several kinds of desserts; including Baklava, Rice Pudding, Creme de Caramel, Creme Brulee, Mousse, Apple Pie, and an assortment of western style cakes (Chocolate, Caramel Crunch, and German Chocolate). I normally don’t get a dessert, so I don’t have a solid recommendation here. I’ve occasionally gotten and enjoyed a slice of cake, but it didn’t stand out. The desserts available vary, so you need to inquire about what they currently have.

Final thoughts

Cedars of Lebanon has become a favorite restaurant of mine. The food is unique and consistently good. Chef Karim and Maria are wonderful people and a joy to interact with. If you like Middle Eastern food or want to give it a try, I highly recommend Cedars of Lebanon. It is open for take-out during the pandemic.

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