This friendly Lebanese-American café in the downtown Financial District is a must-try for those who love flavor, texture and fresh taste. Because my girlfriend is half Lebanese, she was the ideal person to join me on a sunny spring day. For a more typically American meal, burgers and sandwiches such as Philly cheese steaks and Reubens can be ordered; the Mediterranean sandwiches are wrapped in lightweight pita bread and all look appetizing.
But take some friends and get the Cedars platter. When we tried it, the hummus was fresh and lemony, with a texture that assured us the chickpeas didn't come from a can. The baba ghanoush had no trace of the bitterness that eggplants can have. I would have liked it a little smokier, but that didn't keep my friend and me from making a serious dent in it. The stuffed grape leaves were tender and tangy, and the pilaf under them was wonderful. Baby lentils came with cous cous that was definitely not instant — the grain had tooth and body. The tabbouleh was lemony, but had a bit more onion than we would have liked. The shared platter, at $18.99, came with a choice of two sandwiches — just one of the things that made it such a deal. My friend and I chose the chicken kebab and the kefta kebab with different toppings and sauces, and none of it went home with the leftovers. I love it when I can't pick out the spices because they all blend together to form a new flavor.
We didn't have room for dessert, but don't pass up the Turkish coffee. Flavored with cardamom and honey, it was absolutely addictive. There were other flavors, too, but our wonderfully efficient and funny young waiter said those are a trade secret. So much here is made in-house and it shows. The service and great food make this a place not to miss.
106 N. Seventh St., 771-1665
Prices: Salads, sandwiches, burgers and pita wraps, $3 to $6.79; individual platters, $10 to $11; for dessert, baklava is available for $1.49 a piece or two for $2.25.
Hours: 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday to Friday; 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.