Last summer, I gave you a first look at Lebnani House, 5051 S. 27th St., a South Side eatery that excels at showcasing the varied flavors of Lebanese, Armenian, Syrian and Jordanian cuisines.
Nearly a year later, a follow-up visit to the restaurant offered up not only an equally compelling smorgasbord of dishes but something new: a delightfully upgraded patio space, that provides pleasant open-air dining on clement days and a bright, sheltered environment even on not-so-warm days.
The weather was dreary and cool with intermittent rain showers on the day of my visit, but it was delightful to sit at a table on the covered patio, where diffused light pours through the pergola-like ceiling, as well as the dining area’s floor-to-ceiling windows, the upper portion of which can be opened to welcome in the fresh air.
Festoon lights hung from the ceiling are undoubtedly more beautiful on summer evenings as they give off their signature celebratory twinkle; But even during the day, they complement the soft grey walls and ceramic tiled flooring as you sit beneath them at tables outfitted with patio-style seating.
Currently, the room is dependent on the weather for its temperature; but owner Naser Fattah says that upgrades to the space, which made its debut this May, will include ceiling fans, floral accents created by his daughter Asmaa and radiant heating to keep the room comfortable during the winter months.
Perfect patio fare
It’s the perfect place to gather with a few friends for an afternoon (or evening) socializing and grazing on soul-filling mezze. It's the type of meal that might well transport you – if not in body, then in mind – to the clement shores of the Mediterranean.
I started off my afternoon mezze with classic hummus.
At Lebnani House, it's not only silky smooth but rich with a combination of nutty earthiness and bright lemon ($8.99). It’s perfection enjoyed with the accompanying basket of warm pita bread.
Meanwhile, their bright, lemony tabouli salad is (as it should be) comprised mainly of parsley with bits of tomato, onion and bulgar for texture ($8.99).
Summery eggplant salad is equally good, composed of plenty of tender fried eggplant, sautéed onions, grape tomatoes, parsley, and sweet, snappy pomegranate molasses ($8.99).
Meanwhile, tangy Syrian yalanji (stuffed grape leaves) are filled with lemony seasoned rice, chopped tomatoes, onions, minced parsley and olive oil and topped with pomegranate arils ($7.99).
On the opposite side of the spectrum are the briney, rich slices of grilled haloumi cheese ($9.99), which I love nibbling in between bites of hummus and tabouli.
The salty cheese was a great foil for the rich tomato-forward qallayet bandoura bil lahmeh, a dish of tender beef sauteed in tomato sauce with onion, garlic, chilies, pine nuts and parsley ($12.99).
Among the delightful surprises I found on my visit were Lebnani House’s pistachio chicken spheres featuring panko-crusted chicken balls stuffed with mozzarella cheese and pistachio butter, fried and topped with pistachio aioli ($9.99).
I’d also been eager to try the Lebnani House mushrooms, which had been recommended to me by a server on one of my visits. They were worth the wait. The earthy mushrooms were bathed in a rich, creamy sauce and then drizzled with a bit of pomegranate molasses ($9.99). Loaded with lemony flavor, the sauce was as delicious as the tender mushrooms themselves.
If you eat meat, there’s similar enjoyment in the flavor-packed fukhara sujouk, featuring little spicy beef sausages bathed in a similarly creamy sauce, which begged to be mopped up with pieces of warm pita bread ($10.99).
Lebnani House is open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Reservations are recommended, particularly Friday through Sunday, and for groups.
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.