Beyond hummus and kebabs: Touring a delectable Lebanon

Story highlights

  • Many Beirut restaurants serve a different dish of the day at lunchtime, usually something that reminds patrons of their mother's cooking
  • In the town of Becharre, the local specialty is fresh minced lamb rolled up with bulgur wheat to form giant meatballs
  • In Tripoli, the iconic pastry shop Abdel Rahman Hallab specializes in regional pastries
  • No traveler should turn down an invitation to a Lebanese home for a meal
Getting anyone in Lebanon to weigh in on where to find the best shawarma or falafel is asking for trouble.
The country's most popular pastimes are, without question, eating and debating, so expect a heated argument, especially since Lebanon is jammed with incredible restaurants, street-food stalls and bakeries.
Besides eating and talking about food, the Lebanese also love to feed their guests, so meals with friends and family can go on for hours and include dozens of different dishes.
Any visitor with a big appetite, a little patience, and an adventurous spirit is bound to eat more and better in Lebanon than virtually anywhere else in the world.
I'm biased. I'm Lebanese, although living in New York these days. Two summers ago I moved back to Beirut for a year and wrote my memoir, "Jasmine and Fire: A Bittersweet Year in Beirut."
Although I'd spent my childhood in Beirut during the Lebanese civil war of 1975 to 1990, I'd been exposed to only a fraction of the country's mind-boggling variety of food.
So on my recent return to Lebanon, I made a point to go on food adventures across the country, from the cedar-covered mountains in the north down to the ancient city of Tyre in the south.
For travelers to Lebanon who want to get a deeper sense of the country's food culture beyond the well-known staples of hummus, tabbouleh and kebabs, Beirut is an excellent place to start.
It's packed with classic family-style restaurants, imaginative chefs, street stalls serving food like kaak (sesame bread), and bakeries