Cheap Eats 2015: Ya Hala

Graze on terrific tabbouleh and baba ghanoush at Ya Hala.
Cheap Eats 2015: Ya Hala
Photograph by Scott Suchman.

You could snag an invitation to an embassy—Ya Hala often caters for diplomats—but there’s no need. This snug, unassuming cafe offers memorable Lebanese fare seven days a week. The familiar can be revelatory here. Hummus, ubiquitous in eateries both Middle Eastern and not, is velvety and flavorful with intense notes of tahini and lemon mellowed by a generous drizzle of olive oil. Baba ghanoush has a wonderfully smoky finish. And kebabs—we like the kofta meshwi (ground lamb and beef with herbs and parsley)—are well charred, juicy, and served atop fluffy basmati rice. There’s no booze, but juices such as pomegranate and jellab, made from dates and carob, are a nice complement to the savory plates. For dessert, the ethereal pastry known as znoud el-sit is a bundle of flakiness oozing sweet, creamy cheese.

Cuisine: Lebanese

Where you can get it: 409 Maple Ave. W., Vienna; 703-255-7177

Also good: Beef and chicken shawarma sandwiches; kibbeh (fried beef-and-bulgur balls); fatteh (yogurt with tahini, chickpeas, toasted pita, and pine nuts); stuffed grape leaves; tabbouleh salad.

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Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Logan Circle.

Anna Spiegel
Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.