Me Jana, Courthouse, VA

It was a perfect day to have dinner on the patio of Me Jana, me with a glass of 2008 Ksara Reserve ($8.99), he with his Diet Coke ($2.95).

Lebanese restaurants are perfect in many ways: small plates, vegetarian, non-vegetarian, hot, cold – there’s something for everyone without having to break the bank. That said, enough mezze can add up.

Hommus with Meat ($8.99) is served with small cubes of beef (not ground beef) and pine nuts. Me Jana has always served good, warm, house-made baskets of pita bread (with unlimited free refills), and this alone makes hommus an obligatory order here. There’s not a ton of meat on it, but it’s good hommus and worth ordering. (Vegan if ordered without meat)

I had eaten beef heart for lunch, and wanted to stay towards the vegan side of things, so I enjoyed the vast majority of a Tabouleh Salad ($7.75), a large plate of parsley, mint, onion, tomato, and burghul, cut with an acidic dressing of olive oil and lemon. It’s a cleansing, refreshing, almost medicinal thing to eat after (or alongside) a rich plate of meat. (Vegan)

Cheese Rolls ($7.99) are something like a plate of sigara böreği, filled with a mixture of feta and manchego and fried crispy. If you like cheese, even a little bit, there’s no logical reason not to like this dish. (Vegetarian)

If you like empanadas, get the Meat Pies ($7.49), pastry dough wrapped around ground beef, onions, pine nuts, and spices. Like the cheese rolls, there’s really nothing here not to like, and also like the cheese rolls, you get a fair (not tremendous, but fair) value for your money.

Zucchini Fritters ($8.49) were my technical favorite dish of the meal. They were extremely homey – like something a grandma would make – and made with shredded zucchini, mint scallions, the all-important egg whites, and a touch of Manchego cheese. Matt loved them, I loved them, and if I could recommend one dish for you to try, this would be the one. (Vegetarian)

We split an Achta ($7.00) for dessert, and loved it. This is a classic Lebanese dessert of clotted-cream custard served with buttery filo dough, crushed pistachios, and slices of strawberry. It was sweet, but not overly so, and is refreshing while also giving the somewhat false perception of lightness. (Vegetarian)

4 out of 6 – almost 5 out of 6 – of these dishes were vegetarian, and yet we couldn’t have left more satisfied and content. All 6 dishes, the wonderful pita, and even the wine, were hits, so this was another rare example of a dinner that was without any serious flaw start-to-finish. This wasn’t cheap (these 6 items totaled $47.71 without drinks, tax, or tip), but represented fair value. Looking back, I don’t remember ever having a dish at Me Jana that wasn’t at least decent; this time, everything was at least good, and sometimes very good. I understand Me Jana is overshadowed by Ray’s The Steaks, but it’s a solid, independent restaurant that should not be overlooked or forgotten. And as I type, I’m trying to think of a single Lebanese restaurant in the entire DC area that I think is better, and off the top of my head, I cannot. Yes, I’d rather dine at Layalina because of the atmosphere and service, and the wine list at Kabaji Grill is much stronger in Lebanese wines, but for the food, Me Jana would be tough to beat. And now that I continue to type, I’m thinking there are several Lebanese restaurants in the area that are quite good in different areas, so maybe I should just dispense with the hyperbole and appreciate Me Jana for what it is.

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