**Original post written in January. Updated recently after several visits.
In the not so distant past, a craving for any type of ethnic cuisine besides sushi or Mexican food would typically require a trip to the suburbs. But in the last few years, Dallas-proper has been the lucky recipient of a few establishments that fall outside the realm of New American or Southern cooking–not that there’s anything wrong with that!
Enter Zatar (Lebanese oregano or spice blend), a Lebanese tapas restaurant in Deep Ellum with an attached hookah lounge. The first time we visited, you’d never know that Zatar was then only 4 days old as they operated like a well-oiled machine with Chef Mo Khazem providing the most palate-pleasing food I’ve tasted in a long time. Even more impressive, this is the first restaurant for Lebanese owners and partners in life, C.K. Khoury and Mark Mansour, who modernized a few of the traditional recipes—the beef shawarma flatbread—in order to make their cuisine more accessible to Americans.
Since then we’ve returned many times and the food is always exceptional! The owners speak with passion about their food and each dish evokes feelings of nostalgia. Take the upside-down lamb pilaf as an example, made from the recipe of Khoury’s mother. You can absolutely taste the love that she infused into this dish of slow cooked lamb shankpieces on a bed of fragrant beef and raisin rice.
Other standout dishes: the falafel basket (the best in the city!) served with Lebanese pickles and tahini sauce and the rich and addictive lamb mac and cheese.
Be sure to try one of Zatar’s many Lebanese wines and explore the creative cocktail list. The Beirut Old Fashioned (pictured) and the Lebanese Mule are my two favorites.
- This is a tapas restaurant so remember to order for the table! Bring along several friends to ensure that you sample as many of the tapas as you can. If you each order house specialties and hot and cold mezes I promise it will be too much food!
- Order the lamb mac and cheese!
- Stay late to puff on flavored tobacco (shisha) and dine late-night food–until 1a– in the hookah lounge attached to the restaurant.
- Get happy during Happy Hour when several bites and sips will only set you back $5.