3 Best Middle Eastern Restaurants in Los Angeles

Last week, I wrote about my top 5 favorite sushi restaurants in Los Angeles and it seemed like many of you loved reading about it. I got texts, DMs, and emails from folks who agreed with me, disagreed with me and several who are super excited to try out some of the spots I mentioned, including my girlfriend and close friends! (I guess I need to do a better job of taking my loved ones to the spots I really love!) 

You can read the post about my 5 favorite sushi restaurants in LA here.

After the success of the sushi restaurants’ blog post, I went on Instagram and polled my 1,950+ followers, what cuisine they’d like me to write about next. The choices were: Italian or Middle Eastern. To my surprise, 63% of people wanted me to write about my favorite Middle Eastern restaurant in Los Angeles… so here we are!

As a quick disclaimer, my father was born in Aleppo, Syria (Middle East) and my mother was born in Beirut, Lebanon (Middle East). As a result, growing up and to this day, we have A LOT of middle eastern food in our home. (Yes… this makes me sort of an expert.) 

 

When curating my list of Middle Eastern restaurants in Los Angeles, 3 stood out to me as clear favorites. I will write about those and then list a few Honorable Mention restaurants that are also pretty damn good!

Yalla! (Let’s go!)

Hayat’s Kitchen

With over 1,000 reviews on Yelp, Hayat’s is my #1 favorite Middle Eastern restaurant in LA. Hayat’s Kitchen is located in North Hollywood at 11009 Burbank Blvd Unit #117 in a small shopping center. It’s hard to find because it’s tucked into a corner and unless you go with a seasoned veteran or play hide and seek, it may take you some time to discover this hidden gem. Hayat’s Kitchen has been around for a decade and was founded by Hassan Shatila. Hayat’s is described as a “no-frills nook for Lebanese-style Middle Eastern fare in a casual space with patio seating.” I first discovered and went to Hayat’s about 3 years ago with my law school friends and have been going and introducing others to it ever since. Hayat’s Kitchen, in my opinion, is the best Middle Eastern food I’ve had outside my family’s home. Just writing this is making me think about the kibbeh nayeh aka chikufteh aka Lebanese steak tartare, the falafel, the fries, the beef and chicken kebabs, and honestly, everything else on the menu. Beyond the food, Hayat’s owner and staff are extremely friendly and make you feel at home – it’s a wonderful feeling! Hayat’s serves incredible food and it is super reasonable. Want a quick tip? This place is BYOB! So take the drink of your choice and enjoy it with your meal. If you want authentic Lebanese food, Hayat’s is the place to go. Whether you go for lunch, dinner or simply want to take out, this is the place to be. If you don’t want to go alone, let me know and I will join. Want specific menu recommendations? Message me on Instagram: @Posh

 

 

Carnival

Similar to Hayat’s, Carnival is a family owned and operated restaurant in Sherman Oaks in a strip-mall storefront. This place is as casual as Hayat’s and serves incredible food. My favorites: the chicken shawarma and falafel. I’m not vegetarian or vegan, but this place has several options for you if you are. My family and I have been going here for years and it’s always super consistent. One of my favorite menu items here are the fries, which are hand cut, fried twice and can be enjoyed with garlic spread (or ketchup), but I prefer the extremely delicious garlic spread. This place is perfect to go with a big group of friends, family and co-workers and their takeout is a very good choice to for lunch or dinner. If you’re ever in the Sherman Oaks-area, check this place out. With over 800+ reviews on Yelp, it seems like quite a few others agree with me and I know you won’t be disappointed.

 

 

This may be a surprise for some of you. In fact, when I was writing my list of favorite Middle Eastern restaurants, I was surprised that I put this on the list. Bavel is located in Downtown Los Angeles’ Arts District and is a Middle Eastern restaurant from husband and wife team Chefs Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis. You may know Chef Ori from his other popular restaurant in the DTLA Arts District, Bestia.  With family roots in Israel, Morocco, Turkey, and Egypt, Chef Ori and Chef Genevieve always wanted to open a restaurant that showcases the cuisines of their family lineages, bringing together the flavors and dishes they grew up with. Bavel is located in a quiet corner in an old warehouse that still looks a little like a construction site. It’s a place you instantly want to hang out in, and also one that will immediately blur into the background once you start dining. The menu is a modern take on Middle Eastern food. So unlike Hayat’s and Carnival, this place is far from traditional. It’s hard to write about a place like this because the experience and the taste are hard to translate into words.
My favorite menu items were the Foie Gras Halva, Grilled Prawns, slow roasted lamb neck shawarma, and for dessert,  the rose clove chocolate donuts. Bavel is an excellent spot for a date or to go with a few friends – I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for large groups because it’s more of a small, shared plates style of menu. If you’re looking for some bougie dining and are craving middle eastern food, head over to Bavel. 

I also wanted to give some Honorable Mentions to Elena’s Greek Armenian Cuisine (Glendale), Sunnin (Santa Monica, Westwood), Raffi’s Place (Glendale), Bowery Bungalow (Silverlake), Aleppo Kitchen (Burbank) and Sahara Restaurant (Pasadena)

What are some of your favorite middle eastern spots in Los Angeles? I’d love to hear from you!

— Chef Posh

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