No one knows appetizers better than the Lebanese, who snack on them at breakfast and build entire buffets around them later in the day. And no local restaurants lavish more attention on mezze, as the spread is called, than Bacchus's two venerable outposts of Lebanese cooking, whose appetizer lists stretch to some 50 choices. Such exquisite decisions! Will it be cabbage stuffed with rice, mint, onions and parsley, or some aged cheeses tossed with sumac, tomatoes and fiery paprika? Fried smelts with tahini dip, or smoke-singed chicken drumsticks destined for a dunk in garlic paste? I want them all. It would be easy to fill up on hors d'oeuvres, but the Washington site requires diners to order a main course at lunch. That turns out to be a good thing; it would be a shame to miss out on Bacchus Delight, a generous plate of fish and chicken marinated with garlic and lemon, nicely grilled and arranged on fluffy, almond-strewn rice. The Bethesda branch is larger and fancier, with the advantage of an outdoor courtyard in good weather, yet the original downtown restaurant, cozy beneath its tentlike ceiling and watched over by a gracious staff, remains my favorite. Both, thankfully, serve falafel of distinction and lemonade that tastes freshly made, because it is.
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