Byblos Mediterranean Cafe, Syracuse
In April 2010, Syracuse welcomed Byblos Mediterranean Cafe, billed by owner Fady Khabbaz as the city’s first authentic Lebanese restaurant.
The restaurant takes its name from a city in Lebanon which is believed by many to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world.
Khabbaz draws on the culinary talents of his Lebanese-born parents, Philip and Violette, who rely on fresh ingredients and tried-and-true recipes to set Byblos’ menu apart.
Though it’s primarily a takeout spot, our party of three enjoyed dining al fresco on patio tables roped off on the front sidewalk.
Despite the casual setting, our server (who doubled as a counter attendant) was attentive and welcoming, explaining the menu and ensuring that our choice to dine in was not given short shrift.
We began the meal with a trio of mezze (appetizers), including a silky chick pea Hummus ($4), a dish of tender, seasoned fava beans called Foul Medammas ($4.50) and Labneh ($4.95), a cool and creamy
Lebanese farmer’s cheese made from strained yogurt and flanked by cucumber slices, all served with a basket of soft pita wedges.
The warmth of the evening made the Fattoush “Peasant Salad” ($4.95) an attractive entree choice. The crisp lettuce, crunchy pita chips, fresh tomato, cucumber and onion, and brightly flavored lemon olive oil vinaigrette were perfect foils for the side of Falafel ($3) we chose to pair with it.
In his coveted recipe carried from Beirut, Philip Khabbaz opts for a blend of fava and garbanzo beans to achieve the desired consistency for his crispy falafel patties, mildly seasoned with cumin, red pepper and allspice, and served on a bed of fresh lettuce and tomato, then drizzled with sesame-lemon (tahini) dressing.
The interplay of fresh greens and earthy falafel was made positively sublime by the addition of Za’atar Mankoushe ($3.95), a Lebanese-style pizza made of chewy homemade dough and topped with olive oil and za’atar, a pungent blend of sesame seeds and powdered herbs, including oregano, thyme and ground sumac.
Our charbroiled Chicken Kabob Wrap with garlic sauce ($6.50) and rotisserie-roasted Kronos Gyro Wrap ($6.50) were full of fresh lettuce, tomatoes and well-seasoned meat, but both would have benefited from a little extra tzatziki sauce.
In addition to bottled water and canned soda ($1 and $1.25 each, respectively), we upgraded the Gyro Wrap to a “Deluxe” ($2.95) with a bottle of sweet tea and a side of Tabbouleh, a delicious and refreshing salad composed of bulgur wheat, fresh mint and parsley, tomatoes, onion, lemon and olive oil.
In the summer, Khabbaz’ grandmother supplies the restaurant with some of these very herbs from her home garden, which she sows with seeds gathered on yearly trips to visit family in Lebanon.
Chefs Philip and Violette also rely on ingredients sourced from Samir’s Imports on Genesee Street and on ingredients imported directly from Lebanon in order to deliver an authentic dining experience.
Our table was situated with an excellent view of the glass pastry case full of golden, flaky sweets: Resistance was futile.
Though we had hoped to try an array of Lebanese pastries handmade daily by Violette Khabbaz they had all been snapped up by customers earlier in the day save the Baklava ($2.50), available with
walnut or cheese filling.They were flaky and just-sweet-enough and though we found ourselves wishing for a bit more honey between the layers of phyllo, we were sated by a very strong demitasse (small cup) of sweetened Turkish Coffee ($1.75.).
Whether sitting in or taking out for a workday lunch break at nearby Clinton Square, you’ll want a seat at the Byblos family table.
Weekend’s Dining Out reviews are based on an unannounced, anonymous visit. Aimee Koval shares reviewing duties with Denise Owen Harrigan.
Recent reviews are available at www.syracuse.com/dining/
Byblos Mediterranean Cafe ,
223 North Clinton St., Syracuse
CREDIT CARDS? Yes.
ACCESS TO DISABLED? Yes.
HOURS: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday to Friday; 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday; closed Sunday and Monday.
COST: Dinner for three cost $67.17, including tax and 20 percent tip.