Atmosphere: A family place; neighborhood carrry-out restaurant.
Hours: Mondays through Thursday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sundays, 1 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Price range: Subs start at $2, sandwiches at $2.35 and pizzas at $2.25. Lebanese dinners are $5.95. Other dinners under $4.
Credit cards: None. Personal checks accepted.
Special features: Entrance accessible to handicapped. Parking lot. Reduced-price specials Monday through Friday.
The family owners of the Lebanese Taverna must have discussed the unlikelihood that a small, suburban neighborhood would accept a full-scale Lebanese restaurant. Converting a pizza crowd into a grape leaves party takes a lot of time.
Fortunately, the owners didn't give up. A wide-ranging menu emphasizes pizza, sandwiches and submarines while casually suggesting, "Ask about our Lebanese specials."
The restaurant is small -- about 10 tables -- and features a larger carry-out operation. There is friendly concern for all patrons, whether they are just passing through or staying for dinner. The night we visited, a television was placed so all could watch the Super Bowl. A more permanent gesture is the tablecloths on all tables.
The atmosphere is casual. Baskets are used for subs, and paper plates accompany pizzas.
Children watch in delight as fresh pizza dough is thrown high in the air. Our young waitress, the family's daughter, suggested we might be ordering too much, but cheerfully brought each item and paid attention to detail.
The atmosphere underscores the excellent home cooking. The pizza dough is light, moderately thin and covered with sauce, toppings and a generous amount of cheese. Two children easily can share a 9-inch small pizza, which starts at $2.25.
Our son, who usually doesn't eat pizza, enjoyed every slice of his mushroom, onion and meatball variety. Canned mushroom slices were disappointing, but the small slices of meatball were delicately seasoned.
From a large list of subs, our daughter was content with a plain steak submarine with mayonnaise ($1.75).
There are sodas, juices and a variety of beers. Children probably will go through two drinks.
My husband and I had no doubts about what we would order. We figured the restaurant's title had to play some role in this whole production.
There are eight appetizers and five dinners. We began with the homos special ($2.75). Homos is a Lebanese dip made from chick peas seasoned with olive oil and lemon and topped with pieces of ground meat. It tastes wonderful spread inside warm Lebanese pocket bread. This is an appetizer the children enjoyed, but would have hesitated ordering for themselves.
We also shared a plate of grape leaves ($3.50). They had been freshly filled with a rice mixture seasoned with lemon and garlic, and still were warm. fThey were perfect -- even the children enjoyed them. In addition, the lemon slice and tomato wedge give the whole platter an aesthetic appeal. That was true of most of the dishes: they were a blend of color and aromatic spices.
We selected a shish taouk and an ouzi for entrees. They were both $5.95 and clearly prove the restaurant should not hide its Lebanese expertise.
The shish taouk is a kebab made with pieces of chicken breast that alternate with cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, onions and pepper slices. It is served with a red wine sauce that attests to the chefs' ability to achieve a delicate blend of spices.
Ouzi is served with a salad of cucumber pieces in a yougurt base. The salad cools the lamb pieces that sit atop a spicy mixture of brown rice and lamb bits.
Other entrees are served with a Greek salad -- iceberg lettuce chunks, onions and cucumbers with feta cheese sprinkled on top.
Other entrees include grape leaves, shish kebab and kibbeh nayeh. The latter is a raw lamb dish with wheat and spices, and you should call ahead to order it.
To complete your Middle Eastern adventure, have Turkish coffee (50 cents) and a piece of walnut baklava (75 cents). Sometimes other home-baked sweets are available.
With all the sampling we did, our bill, including tax and tip, was $32.13. We easily could have shared some items and lowered the cost.
The Lebanese Taverna does a good job of combining atmosphere and Middle Eastern cooking that tastes as if it had been done in someone's home. It is a family restaurant that makes you feel as if you have entered into a region's history and walked out with its culinarydelights.