About Ya Hala
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.
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.