Lebanon has a thriving cafe culture with fresh food and juices in abundance. The decor across the city is just as diverse as the country: the capital has everything from high end 5 star experiences, to street vendors. I spent 9 days in Lebanon and scoured around looking for the best places for food and drinks (and a good Instagram shot). Here’s my top 10 suggestions for where to get the best food, drink and a bit of shisha in Beirut.
1: Breakfast Barn, Sodeco
This quaint place is home to all vegans and fitfam people alike. It quite literally has tiny trees sprouting out of the tables. The breakfast here is all made fresh daily and has seating both inside the cafe, and outside on a small patio to people watch. It’s a great place to grab breakfast or brunch before kick starting your day exploring the city. I recommend the egg o pesto, but the chia pots also looked delicious! They have a great coffee selection here (with every type of milk alternative you’d ever want), and really friendly staff, fast wifi and NO PLASTIC STRAWS!!
Heads up, it’s not the cheapest of options but it will leave your heart and belly happy afterwards. Take a look at their website for the full menu.
2: Al Falamanki, Sodeco
Another one of my favourites from Beirut. They describe themselves as ‘a serenity in the midst of chaos and havoc; a little village within the city.’
Situated in the more upmarket Sodeco district just south of Gemayze, Al Falamanki is a hidden gem. From the exterior it’s nothing to look at, but once you go inside, the space surrounds a large garden that is the ideal place to spend an evening eating, drinking and smoking a variety of flavours of shisha. This place gets RAMMED at night time when the fairy lights come on so make sure to arrive early to get a seat. Locals flock here and lots of family’s come to play backgammon for hours.
Full menu on their website.
3: Santana, Sodeco
The flavours of South America come alive in Beirut here with delicious cocktails and amazing salsa! The street it’s located on is really cute, nestled in with a lot of other very beautiful bars nearby. This area of Sodeco is a little more upscale, but still has the urban feel of the rest of the city. I asked the bartender to make me his favourite drink (which was also probably the most expensive), so I can’t recall exactly what it was, but it was good! The food menu hosts a variety of delicious plates, but we were mostly there for the drinks.
Happy hour is from 6-8pm.
Take a look for more.
4: Urbanista, Gemayze
If the heat of the Middle East has got you drenched in sweat ( … just me? oh ok), head to Urbanista on the main street in Gemmayze to grab a refreshing frozen lavender lemonade. If there’s one thing I can say about Lebanon its that they know how to juice everything and it all tastes out of this world delicious!
5: Cafe em Nazih, Gemayze
DO.NOT.LEAVE.BEIRUT.WITHOUT.VISITING.HERE. This was my favourite place in the city! The one regret I have about Beirut is that we stayed in a hotel while we were there. Attached to this cafe is a super fun hostel called Safi Urban Garden where there was a huge backpacker scene.
On Friday and Saturday nights the cafe comes ALIVE with people all vying for a table to eat delicious, cheap, authentic Lebanese food, smoke all the shisha and listen to live traditional music being sung and played by locals. If you want to visit here, I highly recommend you make a reservation – we asked the front desk at our hotel to call ahead and hold a table for two.
The food here is so cheap and delicious that we came back twice! The first time we found it off the recommendation of a friend from home, it was during working hours and it was fairly relaxed but busy however, when we went back on Friday night it was a completely different vibe! You couldn’t even tell it was the same place! I suggest going both times and seeing the difference for yourself!
The haloumi is out of this world and the hummus is as creamy as anything! Being creatures of habit, we ordered the chicken taouk, the Lebanese salad, kibbeh, and tabouli.
Take a look here at their website.
6: Abu Naim, Hamra
What I’ve come to realise in Beirut is that most places look like nothing special, but in reality, the food, service and quality is top notch. This tiny restaurant only has room for perhaps 25 people and is tucked away on a side street in Hamra. The very friendly owner lived in London for 3 years and speaks perfect English and loves to have a chat about life back in the UK! I suggest getting the lamb kofte which has something special in it unlike any other place we ate it! And of course, haloumi because no where in the world tastes quiet as good.
The downside is that you can smoke cigarettes indoors, which if you’re not used to is not ideal.
7: T-Marbouta, Hamra
Don’t let the entrance put you off – T-Marbouta is deceiving from the outside! It can be difficult to find situated in the back corner of a small shopping centre, on first impressions it’s nothing to look at, but once you go inside, a lively and buzzing atmosphere opens up to a beautiful plant filled outdoor courtyard. The outside area is decorated with brightly coloured window shutters all along the wall, giving the impression of tens of windows (but it’s actually a concrete wall!). This is the type of place you want to go hungry as everything on the menu will make your mouth water!
I highly recommend the lamb and pomegranate kibbeh and the rose juice mixed with cashews (I forget the name, but loads of locals were drinking it).
If you want late night shisha, go around the corner to Ka-Kaya (see below).
8: Ka3kaya, Hamra
Once you’ve stuffed your face at T-Marbouta, head around the corner for some fresh juice, fresh tea and every flavour shisha imaginable! While we didn’t eat here, the food looked decently priced . We found ourselves coming here every night for a shisha session with the locals to unwind from a hectic day. The street is fairy quiet, just off the main drag even though there’s a few other late night bar/restos next door. Most staff here speak English and there is an English menu available.
Their Facebook page has over 50k likes, which gives a good sense on it’s popularity.
9: Afandina Bel, Hamra
This is quite possibly the most instagrammable cafe we came across in Lebanon! Located close to Ka3kaya, this cafe is my home decor DREAM! They have a great selection of fresh juice and shisha (are you sensing a theme??), and 5-8pm every day is happy hour (normally would be pricy for drinks otherwise). There’s no cocktail menu, they make everything from scratch.
Take a look at their Facebook page for more.
10: Saturday / Wednesday market at Beirut Souks
On Saturday and Wednesday’s, the Beirut Souks – normally a place for the uber rich, transforms into a market selling mostly food/drink but also some handmade trinkets. If you want homemade Lebanese food and sweets, this is a good place to check out. There are stands upon stands of local honey, Lebanese pastries, fresh fruit, veg, and eggs, local wine and juice. It gets pretty packed, so go early to avoid disappointment.
More info here.
Subscribe for more travel tips.