Veg Out: Beirut Restaurant

Beirut restaurant Troy exterior 2016-March

By Cristin Steding

Veg Out is short series about vegan dining options around the Capital Region.

No tour of vegetarian and vegan food would be complete without a foray into ethnic food options. Trying to veganize traditional American food tends to be an exercise in frustration. Dairy-heavy, meat-centered dishes like hot dogs, mac and cheese, and pizza are difficult to replicate with satisfaction. But when you widen your view, the vegan options multiply.

One of my favorite places for a more global meal is the little treasure of a Lebanese restaurant in Troy, Beirut.

If you're looking for a quiet, dimly-lit, fancy romantic experience, Beirut is not the place. The paper plates and plastic forks apparently offend some of Yelp's stuffier reviewers. But if you feel your life is missing a kindly Lebanese aunt and uncle to feed you the most amazing food when you visit, this is most definitely the place to be.

If you're up for a friendly chat with Elias, the owner and face of the restaurant, eating in is your best option. (Beirut doesn't serve alcohol, but diners are welcome to bring their own bottle.) Elias is, for the record, probably the friendliest restaurateur in the entire world. You'll learn about Lebanon, how the food is prepared, and likely how the family is doing. Introverts may be better suited to ordering take out. Even so, when calling in an order, you get the feeling that you're calling a relative to ask for a favorite dish to bring home.

Beirut restaurant Troy takeout order
Takeout order: That's moujadara on the left, mousakaa in the round container on the right.

"Can you give me 20 minutes?" Elias asks when I called in an order a few days ago. Of course it's his restaurant, so if he tells me it's going to take three hours there's not too much I can do about it, but the family vibe carries through every interaction with Beirut.

For the vegan and gluten-free crowd, there are plenty of options here. Online there's a separate menu with everything vegan clearly marked. And in person Elias is more than happy to explain what is vegan. The food is all prepared by Elias's wife and resident chef, Hala.

For my recent to-go order I picked my standby favorite, moujadara, and branched out a little to also try mousakaa. I ordered both as large plates and it was more than enough food for two people.

Moujadara is a lentil and rice dish that's topped with fried onions. The lentils and rice are mixed together and are a consistency similar to a risotto. They're not mushy, but cooked down enough so that the rice and lentils don't feel like separate grains in each spoonful. The flavor is mild and savory, with just a hint of onion.

On its own, the lentils and rice would be a solid option but nothing spectacular. The addition of the fried onion topping, however, sends it through the roof. They're crispy and sweet. The contrast of the soft rice and the crispy onions is a perfect combination, and the sweetness of the onions adds dimension to the flavors of the lentils and rice.

If you can resist eating the entire portion in one sitting, it heats up nicely and makes a great savory breakfast.

The moujadara is served with a side salad, which should not be discounted despite its modest appearance. Though it looks like a standard garden salad served at any halfway-decent catered event, the homemade lemon-garlic dressing is fantastic, bright and fresh.

Beirut restaurant Troy takeout order plated at home
Takeout plated up at home.

The other dish I tried from Beirut's menu was the mousakaa. This is a stew-like mixture of eggplant, chickpeas, and onions in a tomato-based sauce. I'm not a big fan of tomato sauces, so I had somewhat lower hopes for this dish. I'll admit it doesn't blow me away like the moujadara does, but I was pleasantly surprised how good the mousakaa is.

Eggplant can be mushy and flavorless depending on how it's prepared, but the version here is rich and savory. The sauce is acidic and maintains the tomato taste at its center but is balanced out with spices that make it more interesting than a typical tomato sauce. The texture of the mousakaa was a little too soft for my liking, so I piled it on a slice of pita and enjoyed it much more with the contrast of the chewy bread.

Some additional vegan options on the menu include lentil soup, stuffed grape leaves and of course, hummus. (Beirut's hummus is also served down the road at Psychedelicatessen as a bagel topping). For dessert, Beirut offers vegan baklava, which I have not tried yet, but have heard is very good.

Beirut is open Tuesday through Saturday 11 am to 8 pm and also shows up at the outdoor farmer's market in Troy.

Cristin Steding lives in Troy and spends most of her free time eating and driving to the High Peaks. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram

More Veg Out:
+ Veg Out: The Bier Abbey
+ Veg Out: The Ruck

Find It

Beirut Restaurant
184 River Street
Troy, NY 12180

Comments

I agree with the assessment of the vibe. I've always enjoyed the way everything here is made, served or packed with such thought and care. It's the only take out place where they offer instructions on how to carry and drive with the containers so that the food is at its best when one arrives home.

I adore Middle Eastern cuisine and I love this place. It's the real deal and very affordable. Other great vegan/veg options at Beirut are the falafel and the baba ganoush. The zaatar pie is similar to a flat bread and worth ordering to enjoy that distinctive Middle Eastern herb blend zaatar (that should have sumac in it). If you are new to this food, just order the Mezza and sample a little of everything. Don't forget the delicious and decadent halvah, also vegan. Much better than the stale stuff you can buy in supermarkets. (I'm looking at you, Joyva.) The date cookie (called a maamoul, probably not vegan) is a lovely, tender cookie stuffed with a sweet date mixture that you won't find in most Middle Eastern restaurants. Middle Eastern desserts are very sweet, but the portions are small and intended to be enjoyed with a small, strong coffee. Very civilized.

Oh, man, I gotta get over to Troy and get me a zaatar pie and a maamoul.

Nice review! This place was my favorite place when I was a vegan living in South Troy. The falafel was just so, so good.

You totally skipped the best part, the garlic paste! You can literally put that stuff on everything, it is so amazing and your dog won't even kiss you afterwards. I'm pretty certain it is vegan, just garlic, lemon juice and olive oil. Try it, they also sell it at the Troy Farmer's Market.

I LOVE Beirut. The moujadara is a staple for me when I go and the garlic paste is vegan and amazing with their crispy fries. I also wanted the add that their tabouli is deliciously fresh and also grain free.

Love Beirut, been going there for years-I would highly recommend the goat cheese pie- Obviously not vegan, but most of the tastiest items are their menu aren't.

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