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Mediterranean Musings: Lavash Cafe, Little Lebanon (Update)

The exterior of Latif Nasir's well-regarded Lavash Cafe
Lavash Cafe: Experiencing food at the source often spoils you for future renditions farther away. This is the case with me in relation to Mediterranean fare, when an eight week stint in the Middle East several years ago gave me access to some very delicious renditions of dishes fairly familiar to Americans like falafel and kebabs, as well as newly experienced dishes I have rarely seen here since my return (the spicy Aleppo-area dip muhammara and a big platter of freekeh with chicken, for example.)

While I haven't found anything since my move to Ohio that has completely blown my socks away along these lines (the best falafel sandwich I've ever had is still from a more or less anonymous corner stand in the middle of the Christian Quarter in Old Town Damascus), I've found Columbus restaurants to be pretty consistently good in this regard. One of the better purveyors of these types of dishes lies in the heart of Clintonville with Lavash Cafe, owned by long-time veteran of the Columbus restaurant scene Latif Nasir.

Many long-time residents may recognize the Firdous restaurant name, which Nasir founded and was present in several locations in the metro from the 1980s through the mid-2000s. Nasir got out from Firdous and took a break from the restaurant business in the mid-2000s, but marked his return to the Columbus culinary scene in late 2008 with the opening of Lavash.

There's a lot too look at inside Lavash's well-attired space
Lavash Cafe lies in a culinary-oriented block of Clintonville: La Patrona Mexican Restaurant, Lineage Brewing and the Growl! beer growler shop surround the cafe on that side of High Street; with Cup O' Joe and Pattycake Bakery within stone's throw as well. Its clean, brick-lined exterior is matched up with an interior filled with swaths of color as well as plaques denoting "Best Of" designations from various local media outlets and groups (one of the eatery's more recent honors was its selection as the Clintonville Chamber of Commerce's Business of the Year for 2015.)

While the space is large enough to allow for sit-down service, the atmosphere is very casual with food ordering performed at the front counter. This front counter area gives the diner quite a bit to see, from the menu above to the spinning slabs of shawarma and gyro meat behind to the display counter below, which features various kebab skewers, bowls filled with side dishes and baklava-styled sweet treats.

Clockwise from Left: Falafel Platter, Mojadara, and the Lamb Shawarma
Lavash offers up the standards such as Falafel, Shawarma, Kefta and Gyros, dishes we have tended to stick with and enjoyed on our visits. However, this eatery gives visitors a chance for a more fancy meal with red snapper, lamb chops and tiger shrimp kebabs. Another favorite of mine has been their
version of Mojadara: rice and lentils cooked with spices, topped with onions and served with a side salad. Their homemade pita bread which accompanies meals is conveniently bagged for purchase and home consumption.

Lavash Cafe
2985 N. High St (Clintonville)
Columbus, OH 43202
(614) 263-7777
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Little Lebanon continues to evolve as a restaurant after a rough start
Little Lebanon: A recent visit to this Polaris-located eatery shows that things continue to evolve and trend upward since my original post about this restaurant last year. Their dinner selections have been more or less finalized into menu form, and their existing space continues to be refined (the husband half of the husband-wife ownership duo stated they are converting the interior to more of a standard dining room area sans the existing counter.)

Their lunch menu also seems to have expanded since our last visit, with a few items with colorful names that seemed geared to mirror the slaw/french fry topped sandwiches of Pittsburgh-based Primanti Bros. Their Lebanese Hamburger, featuring a Lebanese spiced beef patty and cheese along with that slaw/fries combo within a hollowed-out homemade bun, has a decent enough taste but a lot of the sandwich's interior ends up on your plate before you know it.

The Missle was much more successful: this kefta-layered baked pita topped with same slaw/fry mix along with garlic sauce, tomatoes, onions and parsley had a nice flavor profile and a much more sturdy structure to hold the ingredients at bay.

Some things have not changed. As mentioned prior, the owners continue to be very friendly hosts and the fattoush salad continues to be my favorite in the area, with fresh cut greens and radishes coated with a sumac-laced vinaigrette

Our host that day also let us know that expansion is in Little Lebanon's future. The second location of the eatery has yet to be completely finalized, but the most likely location will be in the Dublin area.

Little Lebanon Bistro Bakery
8495 Sancus Blvd. (Polaris)
Columbus, OH 43240
(614) 781-1814
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  1. I think the best falafels in town are a couple miles north of Lavash. The Pita Hut just north of Morse Rd on High St (next to Bob's Bar) are some of the best I've ever had. And the shwarma sandwich and hummus are also excellent.

  2. I think the best falafels in town are a couple miles north of Lavash. The Pita Hut just north of Morse Rd on High St (next to Bob's Bar) are some of the best I've ever had. And the shwarma sandwich and hummus are also excellent.