TarBoush Lebanese Restaurant & Bar

Sam and I recently had a “night away from the wedding”-themed date night, where we weren’t allowed to talk wedding planning. We wanted to try a new restaurant, and per the request of several blog readers, get out of NW Portland.

We ended up at TarBoush, a Lebanese restaurant located in an old Victorian house on SE Hawthorne. The restaurant is filled with Mediteranean decor and low lighting (hence the yellow-tinted images below – sorry about that folks), but nothing fancy. However, it’s comfortable with friendly staff who sat up right away, despite not having a reservation. I also saw some great potential for outside summer seating (yes, this is always the first thing I check for, even in the midst of a 40+ days-in-a-row-of-rain record). In fact, there was a clear vinyl heated tent set up in front of the restaurant that would have been really cool to sit in, but we were both cold and eager to sit inside where it was toasty.

TarBoush’s menu is pretty standard Mediterranean food minus the traditional Euros (which are only served at lunch). At Mediterranean restaurants, I always order Euros (and fries!), so this was a good opportunity for me to try something new. Since I was a newbie to the rest of the menu (Shanklish? Mhammara? Sawda?), our waiter was kind and patient enough to go over the basics of the menu and even offer some suggestions.

{TarBoush Samboussek appetizer plate}
{gooey goodness of the TarBoush Samboussek}

At his advice, we started with the TarBoush Samboussek appetizer. It looked like homemade dumplings, and tasted like a Mediterranean-flavor-filled calzone made with piecrust instead of pizza dough. And it was delicious.

{Fresh Pita}

We were also given fresh pita, olive oil and a special bowl of what appeared to be spices and/or colored rock salt. I think the waiter could tell by the look on my face that I had NO idea what to do with the pita and “dips”, and was kind enough to show us. The secret method here, I learned, is to tear a piece of pita, dip it in the olive oil, and then dip it into the spice bowl.

{TarBoush Signature Mezza Plate}

For his entrée, Sam chose the TarBoush Signature Mezza plate, which includes humus, baba ghannouj, basmati rice, pita, and 2 choices of meat. Per our waiter’s suggestion, he ordered chicken and kofta, and we took bets as to what kofta actually was. We both failed, and it turns out to be some sort of yummy sausage. Sam couldn’t help but compare his meal to Nicholas’, one of our favorite Mediterranean restaurants in Portland – and thought it was comparable if not better.

{Beef Shawarma}

I ordered the Beef Shawarma plate, which includes marinated slices of beef served with tomato and basmati rice, two sauces (red and white) and a small side salad. I was SHOCKED when the meal came out. My $14 plate was moderately priced but seriously enough food to feed an army. I had leftovers for the next TWO days at lunch. Seriously. This picture doesn’t capture the ridiculousness:

{Beef Shawarma leftovers!}

And as if we hadn’t eaten enough, we shared a Baklava for desert. For $5.50, I couldn’t resist a sweet treat to top off a great, wedding-free night.

{melt in your mouth Baklava}

Overall – dinner wasn’t completely cheap, but it was moderately priced considering the portions and quality of our meal. Sam’s already been buggin’ me to go back.

*Note: Although we actually visited TarBoush before becoming a gluten-free household, the menu is clearly marked with both vegan and gluten-free options. So, I’m sure we’ll be back soon.

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