First, I must acknowledge that I'm a big fan of Syrian/Lebanese/Palestinian food. My four grandparents, long-since passed away, all immigrated from northern Syria through Ellis Island in the World War I timeframe. As a 3rd-generation Arab American, I grew up on the recipes my grandmother passed down to my mothers and aunts. Picture 20 Syrian ladies taking over the kitchen of the Orthodox Church for two days prior to the Hafli (festival) to roll about 5,000 stuffed grape leaves, and you'll know the joy I've known! So when I moved to the DC area in 1980, it's always been a quest to find the best.
My favorite place in the early '80s was Lebanese Taverna at it's original location on Washington Blvd. It's original location, not when it expanded to include the place next door. When I would walk in, Dory's wife back in the kitchen would yell with joy because she knew that by the time I was finished eating, she would probably be able to afford a new dress! That was when Dany and Alex were little kids running around the little dining room. It's not that good anymore. The Tysons II restaurant is now all glitz and noise, and none of the other outposts match the original back in its heyday. It has become "trendy".
I've eaten at a variety of places similar to Lebanese Taverna -- Layalina, Bacchus, Skewers, Mama Ayesha, Mediterranean Bakery, Kabob Palace, Fettoosh, and quite a few others.
But I'm still looking for the ultimate in Middle Eastern food, prepared with the love my grandmothers gave it. The closest I've come to far is Aladdin's in Burke and Lebanese Butcher in Falls Church.
Aladdin's is a surprise. They really are fixated on quality, healthful ingredients, and I've tasted just about the whole menu. I love the hummos, baba ghanouj, kibbee, sambusek, kafta and kabobs. Lebanese Butcher is maybe a slight cut above, similar to Lebanese Taverna 25 years ago. These are my two current favorites....
I'm looking for everyone else's favorites. In a metropolitan area like Washington DC, I would imagine Middle Eastern food to be more prevalent and higher quality than, say, Ethiopian or Vietnamese. Please help me build a top ten list to taste my way through. Thanks!