Bought to the inner city to participate in the Ronald McDonald House's Red Shoe Shuffle, I left the event seeking lunch from the previously unknown to me, but highly recommended Lebanese Taverna. Located in prime real estate right on the edge of the harbor in the Harbor East neighborhood, the restaurant promised to merge the best of Lebanese food in a elegant atmosphere to mirror the maritime panoramic it oversees.
Arriving as the restaurant opened, I was greeted warmly and my waitress, Nadia, arrived soon after I was seated. Already letting me know she put in a loaf of bread into the oven for me, I laughed and told her it wasn't necessary as I was gluten and dairy free. Not missing a beat, she said she'd bring out rice crackers for me to enjoy with the complementary oil-herb mix as an appetizer.
The oil-herb concoction featured flavorful, top-quality olive oil along with thyme, pepper, and other spices. Fragrant and delicious, the mixture quickly disappeared atop the wafer-like crackers which were buttery, crispy, and a mild, but perfect base for the sauce. As I munched on the appetizer after placing in my order, I took in the beauty of the waterfront, clearly visible through the many windows in the dining room, as well as the atmosphere of the restaurant, simple, yet elegant and seemingly worlds away with thematic Middle Eastern music.
After weighing in the many gluten-free and dairy-free options (both marked and unmarked) on the menu, I opted to go with the chicken kebabs, a classic dish that came recommended from my waitress for the specialty marinade used to flavor the meat. The default Lebanese rice used in many of the dishes is not gluten-free, but luckily, my waitress knew to substitute spiced rice, which is safe.
When the entree arrived, I loved the multicolored, tantalizing smell of the garlic, herbs, and other spices. Picture perfect, I didn't know where to start in on the dish, not wanting to disrupt the beauty. However, my appetite won over and I soon started in on the dish.
The vegetables were flavorful and were charred on the grill marks, producing a nice flavor. The grilled tomato was juicy, seared, and delicious, the standout of the veggies. The rice, cooked to al dente, was spicy (not hot) and provided a nice palate cleanser to separate the veggies, meat, and the seasonings used on each. The highlight of the dish was the juicy, bite-sized chicken, which was indeed marinated well and roasted to perfection.
Needing a side mention all it's own, is the little cup of garlic sauce nestled among the veggies. Made of pure garlic and olive oil, the potent sauce was mouthwateringly delicious, but breath-ruiningly strong. I loved it on the rice, meat, and veggies, but it stayed with me the rest of the day- so a word to the wise- consume in moderation if you'll be in another's company for the next several hours!
Lebanese Taverna really impressed me with their knowledge, atmosphere, and cuisine. As a fan of Middle Eastern fare, I was impressed with my experience, but my college-budgeted wallet was less impresses. Expensive as it is, I liked treating myself, but will save future visits for special occasions as to preserve the special-ness of the restaurant. Nadia went out of her way to be friendly and helpful in regards to my questions and concerns, and immediately put me at ease. It's staff members like her, and restaurants like Lebanese Taverna who make eating out without a fun and pleasurable experience.
The BasicsAddress: 719 S. President St, Baltimore, MD 21202
Cuisine: Lebanese, Middle Eastern
Ideal For: Lunch, dinner
Price: See prices at this link.
Accessibility: The restaurant is easily wheelchair accessible.
Special Features: Make reservations online at Open Table (link here) and earn points towards a dining certificate redeemable at many awesome restaurants!