Apr 23, 2024 - Things to Do

Bite Club: "Taste of Beirut" at Hoda's in Portland

Lebanese food from Hoda's on two white plates with pita bread

Hot pita bread, chicken and beef shawarma at Hoda's in SE Portland. Photo: Joseph Gallivan/Axios

Hoda's is one of my favorite of Portland's family-run Lebanese restaurants, up there with Ya Hala in Montavilla and Nicholas.

What to expect: After almost 25 years, Hoda's is still doing the basics beautifully, stressing farm-to-table standards for food which is too often relegated to the midnight food cart.

The menu: Classic Lebanese cuisine, from hummus, falafel, gyros and grilled eggplant, to rose saffron ice cream.

  • If Beirut was once the Paris of the Middle East, then Hoda's pita bread, light and hot from the oven, could be its baguette.
  • We ordered the "Taste of Beirut" six-course plate for $55, which was satisfying.

The bite: Hova's tabbouleh salad comes crisp and fresh in a lettuce leaf.

  • Thin strips of chicken shawarma had a gutsy garlic sauce, and the beef shawarma was rich with cardamom and cumin — mercifully light on the cayenne, the better to let the raw onions sing.
  • The dinky spinach pie and sambousek (beef pie) were mild in flavor, but still fun to nibble.

The bottom line: Mama Hovas' son Sammy runs the show under the Lebanese flag, making guests feel welcome the way his parents taught him.

  • And if you can't squeeze in a baklava, take one to go.
  • From the sticky, flaky top to the sweet, steely bottom, it's perfection.

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