The Cuisine: Lebanese
The Place: Cedarland
Falafel, made from fried spiced chickpeas, is served with a tangy yogurt sauce while the kafta arayes (think crispy pita filled with spiced ground beef and served with chopped pickles) is a highlight on the menu.
Those unfamiliar with Lebanon may be surprised to learn that it is a country of cedar forests on mountain slopes, not deserts and sand. Finding this friendly, unassuming restaurant tucked away behind bags of pistachios and rice is another welcome surprise.
Cedarland Restaurant shares space with a halal grocery store of the same name. The restaurant has about a dozen red vinyl booths, and the store clerk is also the server. This means that service can be slow, but the warmth and attentiveness of our host won us over.
Before our orders arrived, we nibbled on a small plate of marinated olives, cauliflower, and carrots. Falafel (made of fried spiced chickpeas, something like a Middle Eastern hushpuppy) is a food where it's hard to see what the fuss is about until you've had it done right. The falafel here is the best I have tried in Charlotte—not overly crispy, heavy, or soggy, served with a tangy yogurt sauce. The kafta arayes (thin crispy pita filled with spiced ground beef, served with chopped pickles) is an intriguing presentation, but overly salty.
Hummus is thick and seasoned with tahini, lemon juice, and garlic. My only complaint for this dip (and the eggplant dip, baba ghanouj) is that they could both be spicier. If you're not sure what to get, the mixed grill is an excellent place to start—containing beef kabob, chicken kabob (tawook), and grilled spiced ground beef (kafta). Grilled lamb chops are small, no larger than your average chicken drumstick, but well seasoned.
Portions are large, and prices are low—$2 to $4 for sandwiches, $8 to $10 for main courses. Even if you don't have room for dessert, the trays of fresh baklava and lady finger pastries by the front cash register may tempt you into an order on your way out.
4832 Central Ave.
$, L, BW. Open daily.