During my Pentagon days, I used to work in a grim, windowless, tiny cubicle. One of my favorite escapes was lunching at Lebanese Taverna Pentagon City, just a short walk from one of the largest office buildings in the world. On sunny spring days, I used treat myself to lunch and fantasize about new adventures beyond my confines. It also helped that the management offers a 15% military discount, not that I needed more incentives. When I was asked to share my lunch experience at Lebanese Taverna Pentagon City, I immediately agreed.
The scene: Although there are several locations of the brand, each location has its own personality. The Lebanese Taverna Pentagon City’s modern yet casual design transports you to Beirut with Middle Eastern music and decor. During lunch and early dinner you mostly see government employees escaping the cubicle and treating themselves to a yummy meal. The brand is family owned, so it is not rare to see the owners at the restaurant whether it is dining, working, or chatting with customers.
The Food: I must admit, I’ve been going to this restaurant for years and always order the same thing: The Taverna Platter. This consists of four small dishes: choice of beef & lamb shawarma, chicken shawarma or falafel (I always go for the beef & lamb), hummus, fattoush, and Lebanese rice. I always say I am going to order something new, but I don’t like to take risks during lunch… especially if I have to head to a meeting afterwards.
However, during my latest visit, I had the chance to lunch with Grace Shea, one of the owners of Lebanese Taverna who convinced me to taste other items on the menu. At that moment I realized how much I was missing! My favorites were the vegetarian dishes: a beautiful beet salad with pine nuts, orange, and pomegranate and arnabeet (fried cauliflower, chickpeas, and pine nuts with tahini sauce). The carnivores will enjoy their take on the chicken wings. The “camel wings” are simply seasoned with lemon, olive oil, and garlic but they pack a great flavor.
The drinks: Lebanese Taverna Pentagon City has a selection of Lebanese wines which I cannot confirm nor deny if I’ve had a glass during my Pentagon days. I found their Lebanese Chardonnay to be crisp and light, perfect for a sunny day lunch at their terrace. For those who want a cocktail feeling without the booze, I recommend their Taverna Refreshers, a selection of mocktails which range from the sweet mango lassi to my favorite, the tart and rich passion fruit ginger drink. For dessert, save room for Turkish coffee which pairs perfectly with the decadent molten chocolate cake.
The Verdict: Whether it is a lunch escape or a special occasion, Lebanese Taverna is a great choice not only if you’re looking for Middle Eastern food in the Washington, DC area but also looking to try new cuisines. Although the cuisine is centered in a specific region, there’s a lot of variety within the menu. You can literally sit a vegetarian, celiac, vegan, and a carnivore all at the same table and they will have plenty of options to choose from. Although Lebanese Taverna Pentagon City is my go-to location since it is the closest to my former job and my home, there are several other locations available which include markets where you can buy Mediterranean ingredients and cooking classes if you want get better at Lebanese cooking…