Best Middle Eastern Restaurant: Effusive hosts, flavorful mezze
Why scarf when you can nosh? That seems to be the underlying theme of Lebanese cuisine. Mezze -- a meal of salads and dips and spreads and pickled things, sometimes followed by grilled or stewed meat -- is a languorous affair, blending conversation and consumption. The amiable couple who owns this strip-mall restaurant keep one eye on the Arabic-language television at all times, but they'll happily translate the gist of the broadcast and provide the backstory if you want to know more. Talk and eat, eat and talk, and soon you'll find you're taking longer to dredge your pita through the hummus, baba ghanoush, and foul moudammas (fava puree). You have time to argue a couple more points before you take another bite of that kebby (fried meat-bulghur dumpling), as good as it is. And you're savoring the tang of the lemony tabbouleh and the crunch-fest fattoush (lettuce salad with radish, pita chips, mint, and lemon) rather than shoveling them in. Not done talking even though the plates are cleared? Split a bottle of Lebanese wine and smoke a hookah.