Restaurant review: Gigantic flavor-bomb sandwiches abound at new Beyrouth Cafe

By Columbus Alive
From the July 4, 2013 edition

Based on its gigantic and garnish-happy, flavor-bomb sandwiches alone, the newish Beyrouth Cafe should earn a long stay at a previously problematic address. That doesn’t mean it will.

Formerly the unlucky Olde North Columbus home to Lawshea’s plus a few uninspired fried chicken slingers, Beyrouth’s location has come full circle back to its long-ago roots as a Middle Eastern restaurant. See, Beyrouth cooks where some of the first hummus and tabouli were sold in Columbus when the groundbreaking Sinbad’s (i.e. Mazah’s progenitor) occupied this space.

From its exterior windows, Beyrouth’s fancifully street artsy food depictions seem to promise a lively establishment inside. And at first glance, the interior’s sky blue walls and vibrant murals of the Lebanese flag (Beyrouth is an alternate spelling for Beirut), ceiling-sprawling tropical fruit and a rocky seascape promise more of the same.

But the atmosphere in not-so-lively-after-all, order-at-the-counter Beyrouth actually makes it more of a to-go place. Mostly single-manned by a do-everything, extremely hard-working and sometimes overwhelmed guy, ordering here isn’t always easy. And frustrating waits aren’t uncommon. And a long and rambling menu full of not-always-available items and $20 plus (Lavash-like) platters doesn’t help. So I’m gonna help: just order a sandwich.

My chicken shawarma ($8) was outstanding — if a seven-napkin mess to handle. A huge, toasty pita loaf was packed with seared, addictively Middle Eastern-seasoned, juicy meat tricked out with you’ll-taste-it-later garlic sauce, tahini, romaine lettuce, diced tomatoes, pickles and french fries. Hell yeah!

Many of those more-is-more extras — along with hummus — graced my (beefy chunks) “meat” shawarma sandwich ($8). While this was another explosive taste torpedo, the delicious, almost-sausage-y seasoned meat was on the cool side when my order was finally ready.

Like it spicier? Then go with the killer — and rare in town — sujuk sandwich ($7.25; think Lebanese chorizo). The owner/chef/server specially procures these racy links from Michigan, and I thank him for that.

Meat-eschewing visitors to Beyrouth can fare well also. Try the great-deal falafel (with all the bells and whistles — plus tabouli — and seemingly forever on special for $5) or the surprisingly rich vegetarian sandwich, packed with unctuous and sweet, slow-roasted eggplant and cauliflower.

Photo by Tim Johnson