The heart and soul of Beirut and one of the city’s major commercial districts, Hamra is home to Lebanon’s top fashion stores and hotels, and the prestigious American University of Beirut. With vast numbers of locals and tourists crowding its streets daily, it hosts a number of restaurants catering for a wide range of appetites. Here we take a look at some of the most popular haunts in this vibrant neighborhood.
Atmosphere truly sets Dar Bistro & Books apart from its rivals. Nestled away in a little alley, this well-lit place combines a restaurant serving Greek and Mediterranean food, wholesome sandwiches, and a good deal of vegetarian options; with a boutique bookshop selling carefully selected titles. Contributing, above all else, to its unique easy going atmosphere is its beautiful garden terrace, surrounded by trees, vines and flowering jasmine. An oasis, the likes of which cannot be found elsewhere in busy Hamra.
Surrounded by the olive green walls of its minimally designed interiors, Abu Naim takes prides in serving traditional Lebanese food created from the freshest meat and vegetables, handpicked daily by chef and owner Abu Naim himself. Locals tend to return regularly, especially since restaurants in which tradition is adhered to as much as here, are becoming few and far between. Beyond the usual fare of warm or cold mezze and assorted grilled meats, here’s the chance to try something truly exotic, including marinated lamb brains and raw ground beef or spiced liver.
No self-respecting foodie, fond of authentic Neapolitan pizza, would miss an opportunity of dining at Dottore. Tucked away in a quiet side street off Hamra’s main thoroughfare, this little Italian bistro packs in romantic charm, fresh ingredients and a concise menu of Italian dishes, kept traditionally simple. Beyond a handful of antipasti and meat dishes, pizzas are the largest draw, topped with generous amounts of mozzarella and a sprig of basil. It is well worth asking about the daily specials.
Address: Rue Antoine Gemayel, Hamra, Lebanon. +961 3 556 833
On a leafy street in Hamra’s neighboring Kantare district, Jai brings the city the best of Asian culinary traditions under one roof, boasting a unique fusion menu combining Chinese, Indian and Thai recipes. Primarily a delivery and catering service, the set up of the restaurant is rather unconventional, bestowing charm, and taking nothing away from its appeal. Alcohol isn’t served here but you are welcome to bring your own.
Address: Myrtom House Bldg, Rue du Mexique, Kantari, Beirut, Lebanon. +961 1 745 940
Bedivere promises to take you back in time. Sir Bedivere was the most loyal of King Arthur’s chosen knights, so who better to name a medieval-themed restaurant after? The themed ambience stretches from the decor to the names on the menu. Its claim to fame, however, is a novel and quirky concept; as you walk up to the bar, staff invite you to enjoy a 10% discount on all drinks in return for handing over your phone for the duration of your stay. The food is widely varied, inspired from all corners of the world, ranging from burgers, to pasta and seafood. The cocktails, or as they are called here, ‘potions’, are something really special.
t-marbouta is a restaurant, café and pub, conceived as a multi-purpose cultural space hosting film screenings, live music events and lectures throughout the week. The vision behind the place is ‘coffee, books and people’, attracting folk from all generations, especially students who you’ll often find hanging out on the quaint back patio. The homey and attentively designed interior includes a small library on the first floor, a long wooden bar, a study area and lounge in which to enjoy hearty Lebanese mezze in a calm and serene atmosphere.
restAppetito Trattoria serves some of the most authentic Italian ‘soul food’ anywhere in Beirut. Expect all that one would expect to find from a genuine Italian trattoria: mouth-watering antipasti, pizzas, pastas, and there’s also some space for more experimental dishes rich in curious combinations of classic Mediterranean flavors. Away from the bustle of the city, the rustic interior is rather cosy, adorned with paintings of the Tuscan countryside. Should the long wine list confuse you, friendly staff are always willing to help out.
Boasting the best burgers in town, Classic Burger Joint is carving out a niche of flame-grilled passion, setting it well above any of the fast-food chains in terms of taste and quality of service. With a mission to honour the tradition of this universal meal, CBJ serves gourmet burgers made with Australian angus beef patties accompanied by the essential sides of fries and fresh green salads. It’s not hard to see why the Swiss’N’Mushroom, topped with a rich mushroom sauce and fine Swiss cheese, has many devoted fans.
For over 50 years, Socrate has been setting the highest standards in all of its catering endeavours. Its rich heritage dates back to 1964, when their first restaurant on Bliss Street quickly became a favored venue for Ras Beirut’s sophisticated patrons. In a different venue, the present day restaurant serves authentic Lebanese food, impeccably presented, with the same degree of pride.