Pandemic Takeout 17: Beirut (St. Paul)


It took the pandemic but I finally made it to Beirut, a Lebanese restaurant in West St. Paul that people have been telling me we should eat at for years. They’ve been open since 1983 (in the same spot? I’m not sure). That makes them older than Babani’s but a few years younger than the original Mediterranean Cruise Cafe, which opened in 1979 in Eagan (though the current location in Burnsville is of a later vintage as is the spin-off Ansari’s in Eagan).  As per this write-up in City Pages from a few years ago, in their early years they served a largely American menu with a few Lebanese dishes that got few takers. Now, it’s all Lebanese food all the time, and as far as I can make out, they are a neighbourhood fixture—still run by the same family though I believe the interior has gone through some changes. They are open for socially distanced dining-in but I was there this on Saturday to pick up take-out dinner. Here’s a brief report on what we got.

I ordered and paid over the phone and went in to the restaurant to pick up the food. Accordingly, I can report that it is a charming space and I imagine it has a nice atmosphere when full in normal times. With social distancing they only had a few tables occupied. All the staff were in masks. It’s not the most obviously ventilated space though and despite the spaced tables I don’t think I could see us giving dining in a go under current circumstances. We liked our takeout enough though—despite it sitting in the car during a 45 minute drive—that we will almost certainly return when normalcy—or something resembling it more closely than the present—returns. I believe they also deliver though I am not sure what the range is.

What did we get? The missus and I shared their non-vegetarian “Mezza for 2”. You get a selection of 10 of their mezzes (you don’t get to make the selection), plus 2 kabobs each over pilaf with toum (the classic Lebanese garlic sauce). There are four types of kabobs available, which meant we could try one of each: chicken, beef, kafta (seasoned ground beef) and lamb. We particularly liked the lamb and kafta kabobs and thought the beef was good as well; the chicken we thought was just ordinary. The rice was very nice as was the toum. To see what all the included mezzes were, please refer to the slideshow. I can say that we thought the baba ghanouj was the star here and that we quite like the gyro and the grape leaf roll. The kibbee and the falafel were good too and would doubtless be a lot better coming fresh from the kitchen; ditto for the fried cauliflower which had nice flavour but had inevitably gone more than a bit limp in the time it took to get from the kitchen to our table at home. The boys shared an order of Lebanese shawarma with fries. The shawarma was very tasty as well.

The menu on their website—which I’d consulted while placing the order—does not list desserts but I very cleverly asked what the options were (pictures of the dessert menu are in the slideshow below) and from the available options got the baklava and the shaibiyet (phyllo dough stuffed with thickened cream and baked and then topped with syrup and ground pistachios). Both were sticky and good.

For pictures of the space and the food, launch the slideshow below. Scroll down to see what’s coming next.

Though I wasn’t there very long, the staff seemed very friendly, very nice. As I say, we liked the food well enough that we will return for a proper dine-in meal once we feel safe enough about dining in anywhere again. I expect we’ll like some of these dishes even more then.

I’m not sure where next week’s pandemic takeout review will come from but I’m curious to know if anyone has any experience of the Lucky China restaurant located a few hundred feet from Beirut. Though you can’t see it in the pictures above, their sign says “Chinese and Korean food” and I’m guessing that means the ownership is Korean. Worth a try at some point? If you have first-hand experience, do write in below.

10 thoughts on “Pandemic Takeout 17: Beirut (St. Paul)

  1. Beirut seems to have reverted their menu now that they’re open for indoor seating. We ordered a couple of times through lockdown and they had a somewhat restricted menu on their Web site at that time which did mention a delivery range (5 miles? maaaaayyybe 10? enough for us even at 5). They delivered themselves, so I can imagine it’s not something they want to promote heavily.

    The dining room was remodeled a few years ago and brightened up considerably. The service has always been good and friendly. Their baba ganouj is my favorite version (but I’m all about the smoke). We always order an extra container of toum for home use. The rule, though, is that if one person eats it, everyone eats it. Strong stuff.

    Never eaten at Lucky China; we never get past Beirut… I understand you have to ask for the Korean menu. I’ve read over the years that the Korean food outshines the Chinese food. I don’t know if it’s up there with Sole or Mirror or Dong Yang. But you should try it. We should, too; it’s a little easier for us to get to Lucky China than to Sole/Mirror.

    Like

  2. Lucky China is the only restaurant in the twin cities where you can get great authentic Chinese Korean food. I would ask for the Korean menu. The two most popular dishes are chajang myun or cham pong. Having lived in both Korea and Los Angeles (and of Korean decent), I can tell you that these dishes are as good as I’ve personally tasted.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. We love Lucky China. Our family has gone for years. Talk about friendly , family owned and run. Have NEVER been disappointed by the food or service. Have taken out several times during the pandemic. Make sure to try this restaurant too!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Glad you tried Beirut. The hummus there is my go to and you’re right that the cauliflower is best fresh.
    Lucky China and Beirut are both in my family’s rotation for takeout right now, as is Teresa’s in Mendota Heights (their pineapple el pastor dish is wonderfully flavored.)
    Lucky China is excellent and some of their Korean dishes are especially good. Our favorite noodle dish is the Cha Jiang Mein although in takeout the sauce and noodles go home separately for you to combine. The braised bean curd is also very good.
    Both places are run by very friendly families.
    Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I have been to Lucky China. I am not a big fan of pickled food, and everything my friend and I got seemed to have some element of vinegar/pickling. I think that is the “Korean” side of Chinese food. I cannot say the quality was not good, it’s just my own taste preference. We had decent service and the servings were good. I wish they could have helped us with our order a bit more, since it was our first time.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks, everyone, for the feedback on Lucky China. The missus is Korean and so we’re very intrigued by the prospect of actually good Korean Chinese food in the Twin Cities metro. Our previous encounter with jajangmyeon here—at the restaurant attached to the Dong Yang grocery—was not very positive.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.