Beyond Falafel: Finding Authentic Lebanese Food in NYC

Ilili is one of the many places in the city you can find authentic, high-quality Lebanese food.

There is so much more to Lebanese food than just hummus and falafel. While Mamoun’s Falafel or The Halal Guys may suffice when in a rush or on a budget, it can be difficult to find authentic Lebanese food even in the the gushing culinary culture that surrounds NYU.

Lebanese cuisine is often simplified to American-friendly plates, but which does its culture a major disservice. Lebanon native and Liberal Studies freshman Leah Khalil said the key to authentic Lebanese food is not just the ingredients themselves, but the way the meal is eaten.

“Lebanese food is something meant to be enjoyed in the company of others; the whole concept of mezze is to share small plates of food, so it’s surrounded around the idea of coming together as a family,” Khalil said.

The following restaurants maintain the integrity of Lebanese ingredients while upholding the quality of the meal.

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Manousheh – $

193 Bleecker St.

For authentic Lebanese street food, look no further than Manousheh, a small shop on the

intersection of Bleecker and Macdougal that boasts the little-known gem of Beiruti cuisine as its

namesake. Manousheh is a Middle Eastern breakfast flatbread baked under an authentic wood-fired oven, smothered in delicious fillings before being rolled up. Try it savory with toppings like za’atar, an herb blend, soft cow’s cheese and minced beef. For a sweet, modern twist, you can top it with Nutella.

Must try items: Manousheh with za’atar, jibneh (cheese), and labneh (thickened yogurt)

Balade – $$

208 1st Ave.

Balade was voted one of the Best Middle Eastern restaurant in New York City by Zagat, and for good reason. The eatery makes use of classic Lebanese ingredients like cracked wheat, grape leaves and mint, making it the perfect place to try something new or take comfort in familiar food. Located in the heart of the East Village, Balade is a great place to take your parents or friends.

Must try items:  Warak einab (stuffed grape leaves), moudardara (lentils and rice) and beef shawarma.

Ilili – $$$

236 5th Ave.

Striking a balance between innovation and authenticity in cooking often risks degrading flavor, but Chef Philippe Massoud finds a way to simultaneously draw on tradition for inspiration in reinventing the classics. Ilili is pricey, but worth every dollar. This is the best place for mezze, the Lebanese equivalent of Spanish tapas.

Must try items: Brussel sprouts with fig jam and walnuts, diver scallops and duck egg with truffles

Email Preet Bhaidaswla at [email protected] 

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