The 52: The Beirut is One of Ohio's Best Ethnic Restaurants
SOURCE: TOLEDO BLADE
BY: PHILLIP L. KAPLAN
Welcome to The 52, a glimpse into the history of Toledo through its most essential places and events. Every week in 2019, we’ll feature a different story highlighting what makes Toledo great.
America is great for its diversity and weaving of ideas and people. This develops into unexpected pockets of creativity.
That’s how you have The Beirut, one of the best Lebanese restaurants around running an empire of Mediterranean delights in Toledo.
David Yonke, a former Blade editor who covered music, tells stories of being backstage and witnessing firsthand Billy Joel’s craving for The Beirut whenever he was in town, or if David was going up to Detroit from Toledo and he was bringing a toppling order for the Piano Man himself.
In 2012, it was named the best ethnic restaurant in Ohio by The Official Best Of television show, an independently produced program on the Discovery Channel.
It has such outstanding Lebanese wines unique to the region that the 2018 edition of Wine Spectator’s Restaurant Awards, which honors establishments with the best wine lists, bestowed The Beirut its “Award of Excellence.”
Opening on Monroe Street in 1977 under Labib Hajjar and Riad Abou-Arraj, The Beirut was an instant classic for Toledoans and always a top recommendation to any visitor. If you can eat there only once, you have to stick to the Lebanese classics.
Pillowy, light, endless pita bread accompanies everything so perfectly you honestly don’t need to get out of the appetizers section to still have a great dinner.
Homemade thrillers abound on the menu: grandma-level grape leaves, lamb served in all its sacred iterations, marinated beef filet tips in lemony extra creamy hummus, arayes, fried kibbe, labanee, chicken or beef shawarma slathered in tahini sauce, char-grilled shish tawook — and that’s just the stuff on the menu. There’s an entire secret world of sub-orders and twists that emerges if you’re lucky enough to be able to dine there regularly.
And with The Beirut’s fair prices, you can.
But once you’ve worked through the favorites, you’ll find you can throw a dart at the menu and get something amazing every time.
That dart might land on the right side of the menu, which is the Italian section. Though underplayed, the family is equally under the spell of Italian influence as it is Lebanese.
The Beirut pizza is low-key one of the best in town. The spaghetti with meat sauce and meatballs and crisp garlic pita would be leftover-worthy if you could stop yourself from eating all of it there. Not that it has any authority over the lasagna, ravioli, or cannelloni.
If you really want to travel, punch your ticket for the brachioli. It’s an otherworldly combination of medium-rare baked tenderloin wrapped around ham and melted cheese, served in a red wine sauce with whole mushrooms, spicy green beans … and a pickle! You’ve never eaten anything like it.
The Beirut’s family ownership has proliferated into sister restaurants and spin-off concepts in the area, including Byblos Reynolds Road, which opened in 1989. And in 2002, they brought the fast-casual Spanish tapas concept to Toledo with Poco Piatti, now at several locations.
They’re all worth your attention, but The Beirut remains the rightfully worshiped monolith at the center.