This week, I am having dinner with a college friend I haven’t seen in a while. While trying to pick a restaurant in Beirut that we would both appreciate, I found out that he has become a vegan. I don’t know why anyone would willingly give up seafood or a good piece of meat, or even sunny side up eggs but I am tolerant, so I ran to google thinking I would find a couple of suggestions and was surprised to see that the literature on the subject was scarce. And thus was born the idea for this post, a list of places you can go to for vegan or vegetarian meals in Beirut.
This one may seem a little obvious but restaurants with salad bars are an excellent choice for vegetarian lunch options. In lebanon there is no lack of salad bars and some of the best can be found at Cafe Mundo, So, and Mandaloun cafe, although my all time favorite, for the originality of their selection, has got to be Urbanista.
Lebanese or Armenian restaurants
Lebanese cuisine has no shortage of vegetarian dishes, with its abundance of starches, whole grain, fruits and vegetables. The same is true of Armenian food. Salads like Tabbouleh or Fattoush, dips like Hommos or Moutabbal, or even stuffed vegetables are staples of our cuisine which has alot in common with Armenian cuisine. Classic Lebanese Mezze can be had at Burj El Hamam while a slightly more contemporary take on local cuisine is to be found at Leila. As for Armenian, head to Mayrig for royal treatment, or a more modest approach at Hasmik.
Falafel are deep-fried balls made from ground chickpeas and fava beans. The falafel balls are topped with salads, pickled vegetables, hot sauce, and drizzled with tahini-based sauces. Falafel shops can be found all around the city. The better ones include Freiha, Barbar, Abou Andre and my all time favorite, Sahyoun.
For breakfast (or even lunch) there is nothing like Manakich, dough topped with thyme, cheese, or labneh, similar to a pizza. Add some vegetables to add a little crunch and some freshness. You can find many bakeries around the city or have them delivered from Zaatar w Zeit for a more ‘controlled’ version.
Daily dish restaurants
Lebanese home cooking also serves up quite a few vegetarian dishes. Moujaddara, Balila and Fatteh are just some of those. Luckily, in the past few years, many daily dish restaurants have popped up around town. Auntie Salwa is an expat favorite with its limited seating and numerous serving plates piled up with salads and healthy dishes. La Marmite on the other hand is a delivery only restaurant that has a daily vegetarian option. Each meal comes served with a salad and desert for approximately $10.
Specialty restaurants & stores
After digging deeper I did end up finding a couple of restaurants / stores that cater to the organic vegan eaters out there.
A New Earth Organic and Eco-living Store is one of the city’s first organic grocery stores and offers specialty items such as raw food, and gluten-free products as well as vegan, low-sodium and low-fat items. The Olive Tree is another such store, while Linger Complete Organic Circle is a restaurant which has a daily organic vegetarian dish.
If you know of other vegan / vegetarian friendly places please let us know in the comments. Your suggestions are always appreciated.
Featured image from the book: Food for the Vegetarian: Traditional Lebanese Recipes