We are highlighting some of our favorite restaurants and businesses where you can celebrate the culture, heritage, and food that has been contributed by Americans of Arab descent in the New Orleans area. Let’s celebrate the way we do best – by eating.
Chef-Owner Hussain Alsherees’ Lebanon’s Café has been a fixture on the oak-lined stretch of Carrollton Avenue for decades. Arguably, nothing goes better with hummus and chicken shawarma than a bottle of your own wine and the sounds of the streetcar while dining al fresco. The lentil soup is thick and creamy, the hummus is always fresh, and the baba ganuj is super flavorful. Also, the refreshing Lebanese tea comes with pine nuts and a hint of rose water. They’ve got all the classics from gyro and chicken shawarma to lamb chops - whatever your choice, the meal will not disappoint. There are also plenty of vegetarian options, and they’re just as flavorful. You can’t make a reservation and it’s BYOB, so get there early and bring a bottle of wine for the wait. It’s well worth it.
With various locations, Byblos has been a New Orleans staple with reliably satisfying Middle Eastern fare for years. Between Byblos Restaurant on Metairie Road, Byblos Market on Veterans, and Byblos at the Lakeside Mall, co-owners Tarek Tay, Gaby Saliba, and Hicham Khodr of 3 of a Kind Restaurant Group have made their signature Middle Eastern dishes like hummus and gyros incredibly accessible. Whether you are dining in at their casual restaurant, picking up a to-go order, or grabbing a quick bite while shopping at the mall, the quality and consistency is guaranteed.
A family-owned restaurant in a strip mall may seem unassuming, but don’t underestimate Cleopatra restaurant. Father/son duo Al and Louie Joudeh’s West Bank eatery is as flavorful as it is authentic. The meal starts with fresh bread, assorted pickled vegetables, and olive oil for dipping. The prices are reasonable, and the plates are large, complete with basmati rice, onions, hummus, and tzatziki sauce, so you know you are getting the bang for your buck. Genuine Turkish coffee is on offer as well, and when it’s hot out, quench your thirst with a refreshing Lebanese sweet tea or any of their assorted freshly squeezed juices.
Shawarma on the Go
Located along a busy section of Magazine Street, Shawarma on the Go serves up impressive Middle Eastern favorites alongside an unassuming neighbor–the Jetgo gas station. Speediness may be the name of the game, but Iraqi-born owner Abbas Alsherees’ cooking never disappoints. Here you can find everything from shawarma and gyro (a given, from the name) to Iraqi lula kebob, fried eggplant sandwiches, halloumi wraps, and even fried shrimp po-boys.
Cleo’s Mediterranean Cuisine and Grocery
Cleo’s has all the essential Mediterranean dishes you know and love with two added bonuses: they’re open 24 hours, and they offer several vegan and vegetarian options. Egyptian-born chef/owner Tarek Madkour originally opened Cleo’s in a convenience store on Roosevelt Way before moving to nearby Canal Street, so it caters to the lunch crowd, downtown residents, and those in search of a late-night cure during a night out. Don’t be fooled by the convenience store front or cafeteria-style service; the dishes are beautifully plated and loaded with delicious food.
Located along West Esplanade in Metairie, Almasgoof specializes in Iraqi cuisine. Born in Basra, Iraq, Chef-Owner Mahmoud Alhattab’s menu offers familiar Middle Eastern dishes such as tabbouleh, hummus, and shawarma, while also bringing more regional Iraqi specialties to the table–specifically, the restaurant’s namesake, Almasgoof. It’s known as the national dish of Iraq, wherein fish is marinated and roasted in a basket adjacent to an open woodfire.
Lagniappe: Crescent Market
Want to try your hand at Mediterranean cooking? Crescent Market is the perfect place to start! This halal market in Gretna offers a vast variety of Middle Eastern groceries, a bakery equipped with specialty desserts, a knowledgeable butcher with various cuts of meat for the perfect Mediterranean meal, and more. The market also has a large variety of tantalizing spices and oils to pair with their fluffy and freshly baked pita. All of this is buttressed by excellent customer service and well-organized aisles that improve your in-store experience and get you closer to your satisfying spread that much quicker.