Fri December 3, 2010
Wichita is a true destination for Lebanese food in this country. We are really lucky to have so many great Lebanese restaurants here.
I had no idea how spoiled I was until I moved away to college at KU, in the eighties, where there was not a decent piece of pita bread or falafel sandwich to be found. The only hummus in Lawrence at the time was at a hippie grocery and it had too much garlic and not enough tahini. It sort of burned when you ate it, and not in a good way. I used to come home not only to do my laundry and beg my parents for money, but to eat real kibbe and grape leaves. I was also very fortunate to have Lebanese friends whose mothers and grandmothers would cook for me as well. Like most cultures in which traditions are preserved at home, the best Lebanese food is not found in restaurants. It’s stuffed into you until you can’t move by an insistent, adorable grandma with wicked culinary skills.
Lebanese food is robust and healthy, with an emphasis on vegetables and grains, seasoned with olive oil, garlic, lemon and herbs. I’m going to talk about all the great Lebanese restaurants in town eventually, because I like all of them. It’s easy to spread the love around.
Right now, I’m in love with Byblos, in Indian Hills, for their home-style cooking, family atmosphere, and truly killer sandwiches. The falafel there is my favorite, tender fried chickpea patties with tahini-flavored sauce all barely contained by fresh pita bread. It’s saucy, crunchy, chewy, garlicky and drippy. You will need extra napkins.
Go check out Byblos. They have a small staff, so sometimes lunch can be hectic. I like to order takeout or go in on off hours, so I can take my time, maybe chat with the owner, and really enjoy myself. Good cooking takes time, so relax and go with the flow. You’ll be glad you did.