Fluffy hummus, perfectly grilled kebabs, a zesty tabbouleh, you name it. These are just a few of the dishes woven into Lebanese cuisine. Growing up in a Lebanese household, my parents helped my siblings and I understand the process of cooking Lebanese food, which gave us a deeper appreciation of our culture.
Over the span of two weeks, I made it my mission to find the best Lebanese restaurants in Los Angeles.
First I visited, Sunnin Lebanese Cafe, a Westwood restaurant started by Lebanese immigrants. The atmosphere felt warm and cozy, with tables in close proximity to each other and little light coming through the windows. The aroma of fresh spices and pita bread filled the air.
When asked what makes Lebanese cuisine unique, George Chammaa, the owner of the restaurant said, “It is one of the most unique cuisines ever because there are different varieties of mezza, which are appetizers, and then you get into the kebabs, shawarmas and stews so, it’s very diverse.“
I ordered the chicken shawarma (meat that is shaved into thin slices) with a side salad, rice, hummus and some dolmas, which are vegetarian grape leaves stuffed with rice. The shawarma was delicate, but I wanted it to be more flavorful with stronger spices. The hummus was light, creamy and fluffy—about average. The grape leaves were too thick for my taste and did not have enough rice on the inside.
I drove 20 minutes to the next restaurant I wanted to try, located in West Hollywood right on Sunset Boulevard, Jojo’s Grill. Jojo’s is fairly new to the restaurant scene, opening up in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s clear the staff and management care for their customers. During my visit, I spoke with Jojo’s owner Malik Haddad. He was so welcoming that it made me feel as if I was catching up with an old friend.
Hadad said he used to own six restaurants in Michigan.
“Michigan is very well known for Lebanese food,” said Hadad. In Los Angeles, Hadad said it’s hard for Middle Eastern restaurants to stand out from each other. “There are different touches with the owners, but when it comes to Lebanese food, this is the most authentic Lebanese food in Los Angeles. I had people tell me the falafel and hummus took them back to Beirut.”
At Jojo’s I ordered a chicken kebab with a side of hummus and garlic sauce, and some baklava for dessert. The chicken was flavorful and the spices were evenly distributed. The hummus was fluffy, but could have used some more citrusy lemon flavor or additional tahini. The texture of the garlic was spot on, but could have had a stronger garlic flavor. The baklava was perfectly crunchy and sweet and satisfied my sweet tooth.
Lastly I arrived at a location of Zankou Chicken, a five-minute drive from Sunnin. It was quite different from what I was expecting. I knew it was a chain restaurant so I initially thought it would not be authentic. I turned out to be completely wrong and Zankou’s ended up being my favorite out of the three restaurants I visited.
Although the atmosphere was nothing special, the food was the closest to the authentic Lebanese food I have been used to my entire life. I ordered the chicken kebab, a side of hummus, tabbouleh, pita bread, and it came with a side of garlic sauce. The kebabs were perfectly cooked and extremely flavorful, the hummus was thick and lemony, which reminded me of my dad’s hummus. The tabbouleh was a bit runny, but the flavor was still there and the garlic sauce was just the right amount of garlic. This turned out to be my top rated restaurant, so I would say I saved the best for last.
If you are dying to grab some Lebanese food in Los Angeles, definitely visit all three of these restaurants. They are all unique and have their own recipes and twists on Lebanese food.
Sunnin Lebanese Cafe – 1776 Westwood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90024
Jojo’s Mediterranean Grill – 8000 Sunset Blvd Suite B130, West Hollywood, CA 90046
Zankou Chicken – 1716 S Sepulveda Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025