Where to feast on Middle East in our corner of the Mitten
Published: June 6, 2012
$=$5-$10; $$=$10-$25; $$$=$25-$50; $$$$=$50+
Al-Ajami 14633 W. Warren Ave., Dearborn; 313-846-9330; $: Al-Ajami is less expensive than many other contenders, serving a competent menu that even includes 15 seafood dishes. Also good are the lemon chicken, which combines grilled chicken and pilaf with vegetables doused in lemon butter, a terrific chicken rice soup, and a good lentil soup. Servings are enormous.
Anita's Kitchen 22651 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-548-0680; anitaskitchenonline.com; $$: In warm weather, a large, covered outdoor area allows outside dining. The bar serves beer, wine, juice and smoothies. For the harder stuff, examine the small but diverse wine selection and three Michigan craft brews. Salads and veggie-intensive appetizers fill a good portion of the menu. There are even a few unique pita pizzas. As with most Mediterranean cuisines, Lebanese is considered to be a very balanced, healthy diet. If meat is your thing, you can easily fill up with kebabs or shawarma. Lamb is prominent in the form of chops, shanks and kibbeh, a mixture of ground lamb and cracked wheat that can be ordered baked or raw. Of course, there are also a couple fish dishes. The ideal sampler is Anita's "mixed mezza" — for $32.95 you get a plate of hummus, tabbouleh, fattoush and crunchy pickled vegetables with a touch of heat and a few other plates. Comes in a vegetarian version for $26.95. For a fine finish to a meal, order a pot of Turkish coffee and a tender, not-too-sweet piece of baklava. Open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday, noon-10 p.m. Saturday, and noon-9 p.m. Sunday. Child-friendly.
Byblos Cafe and Grill 87 W. Palmer, Detroit; 313-831-4420; 4830 Cass, Detroit; 313-292-5678; bybloscafeandgrill.com; $: Located near Wayne State, this busy shop has held its own for several years. Part of it is its proximity to the pennywise students who enjoy frugal meals here. But their massive menu is nothing to sniff at; it offers more than 90 dishes, including Lebanese, Middle Eastern, American, everything from quesadillas to fish and chips! Also has bargain prices of $4.25-$6 for wraps and sandwiches.
Cedarland Restaurant 13007 W. Warren Ave., Dearborn; 313-582-4849; cedarlandrestaurants.com; $$: When the three brothers who own Cedarland converted the large bank building on the corner of Warren and Hartwell into a restaurant, they retained the drive-through window for quick orders. Whether eating in or taking out, the baba is creamy in consistency, with a roasted, earthy aroma and just the right bite. You can order it as an appetizer or a side dish. The walls are painted with scenes of Lebanon including skiers among the cedars.
Country Chicken 5131 Schaefer Rd., Dearborn; 313-582-6677; $: This tiny Lebanese storefront serves mammoth portions, so prepare to share. Various shawarmas, meat coriander, baba ghannoush, lamb's tongue and falafel are enjoyable. No alcohol.
Elie's Cafe & Fresh Juice Bar 263 Pierce St., Birmingham; 248-647-2420; $$: Elie's menu is supplemented with a sheet of daily specials, but even the standard menu is full of unusual Middle Eastern delicacies and a dozen vegetarian entrées. A favorite for lunch.
Harmonie Garden 4704 Third St., Detroit; 313-638-2345; $: With low prices, huge servings, a Wayne State location, top-notch falafel — and a 10-year lease — Wayne State grad Taher Jaber aims to please with the restaurant he opened last year. Here you'll find quality, quantity, price and friendly service. Our party of two spent $30 and left with four Styrofoam boxes. The vegetarian-friendly menu is long and comprehensive, and falafel gets its own section. Standouts include bamya, kibbeh and a Sharif spinach salad. Also notable is chicken mussakhan, a Palestinian dish with a barbecue-sauce taste. One of the more remarkable bargains in this restaurant of bargains is the Sunday buffet, spread out along the bar. It's $9.99 for all you can eat plus coffee, and it includes a number of meat dishes. Harmonie Garden is open 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sundays. With wi-fi.
Hummus Mediterranean Grill 22151 Gratiot Ave., Eastpointe; 586-777-7776; $$: Eastpointe's outpost for Middle Eastern dining has something for everybody. There's a children's menu for fussy youngsters, burgers for those hewing to classic American fare, party trays to keep your troops fed. Perhaps most interesting, however, are the more authentic and unusual items on offer. In addition to the ubiquitous shish tawook, shish kabob and shish kafta, you can order sojok, lamb pie, lamb tongue suauté, fried kibbeh, even odd-sounding combos such as hummus with salmon. Prices are reasonable and portions generous.
Ike's Restaurant 38550 Van Dyke Rd., Sterling Heights; 586-979-4460; ikesrestaurant.com; $$: The bare tables and paper napkins belie the relative stylishness of the setting, and the huge menu meanders through steaks and seafood to Italian and Greek dishes before it gets to its gastronomic raison d'être — specialties from Lebanon, with hefty portions averaging around $13, including soup and salad, as well as warm fluffy pita baked on the premises. Among more than 40 starters and salads are lamb sausage, kibbeh balls, labneeh with garlic, saganaki (opa!) and even chicken tenders and cheese sticks. Most of the entrées (the Lebanese ones including various kebabs, kibbeh, grape leaves and a gyro platter) come with an ample helping of vermicelli-enlivened rice doused with tomato sauce. Expect serviceable wines and bottles of Heineken. If you aren't staring down a doggie bag before dessert, Ike's has a variety of cakes, pies and baklava. Marking 20 years in the business in 2011.
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