Portland is home to a trove of spectacular Middle Eastern eateries. Many of them are owned by immigrants who use their restaurants to celebrate their cultural traditions and share family recipes. Enjoy out-of-this-world food and hospitality at these local restaurants.
Middle Eastern eateries in Portland
What began as a deli counter in 1999 has grown into a spacious (and gorgeous) family-owned restaurant. Nestled in Southeast Portland’s Montavilla neighborhood, the Ya Hala kitchen is run by Chef Mirna Attar. Once featured on the Food Network’s “Chopped,” Attar whips up homey Lebanese cuisine using Northwest ingredients. While the lunch and dinner menus are exquisite in their own right, we recommend visiting during brunch hours. Try the Lebanese country breakfast, which features house-smoked lamb bacon, fried egg, potato-mint hash and house-made soujouk (sausage).
Iraqi hospitality takes top priority at DarSalam, which means “house of peace” in Arabic. A boon for gluten-free diners, the menu favors bright flavors and fresh offerings, including pickled mango salad and eggplant stew. The original restaurant on Northeast Alberta Street, founded in 2012, boasts a charming courtyard patio. If you’re downtown, check out the all-you-can-eat lunch buffet at their second location on Southwest Alder Street.
Al-Amir has livened up downtown Portland since 1988 with bustling tables of authentic Lebanese feasts in the historic Bishop’s House. (There’s also live belly dancing on Friday and Saturday evenings.) Reasonably priced kebabs are skewered at lunch, while evening offerings include marinated prawns and beef-stuffed cabbage rolls. Their thick Middle Eastern coffee, brewed in a traditional brass pot, is the perfect sip to conclude your meal.
TarBoush Lebanese Bistro & Bar
Set in a Victorian house on Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard, TarBoush Lebanese Bistro & Bar wins patrons with its relaxed atmosphere. Also of note are its deliciously smooth hummus, generous mezze platters and shawarma plates. Standard cocktails get a Middle Eastern twist with re-envisioned classics like the Beirut Manhattan, which is blended with orange blossom. Try one of the eatery’s signature entrées, like a whole oven-baked game hen stuffed with spiced rice and potatoes. Not a carnivore? Order from their extensive menu of vegan and gluten-free dishes.
Founded in 1987 by Lebanese-born Nicholas Dibe and his family, Nicholas now boasts two bustling locations on Portland’s east side. The chefs use fresh, local produce to create seasonal menu items like butternut squash hummus. The real spotlight, however, is on the restaurant’s famously enormous pita bread. A color-coded menu makes it easy for guests with special diets to find suitable meals.
Karam Lebanese & Syrian Cuisine
Chef Majdoline Mossa earned her cooking stripes alongside her mother and grandmother in Syria, preparing food for their weekly family gatherings. She assumed ownership of Karam Lebanese & Syrian Cuisine when her aunt retired and moved to Lebanon. Majdoline continues to maintain her aunt’s focus on fresh, healthy food. Options at the downtown eatery include okra casserole and kibbee saneeyeh (a national dish made with bulgur wheat and beef).
Riyadh’s Lebanese Restaurant
Lamb shawarma sandwiches, spinach turnovers and baba ghanoush-stuffed pita are among the pleasures available at Riyadh’s Lebanese Restaurant. The cheery yellow exterior of this Ladd’s Addition eatery belies its richly robed and chandeliered interior. Filled with the aromas of meats charbroiled to perfection, Riyad’s also offers a variety of smoothies and flaky baklava.