3257 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 235-3277, tarboushbistro.com.
[PITA POW] If you're in the Lebanese restaurant game—a dozen or so places in Portland are—you should nail your pita. Those puffs are always the first impression, and they hang around throughout the meal to be used as scoops for tabbouleh and fava beans. And yet too many local Lebanese restaurants mangle it, serving pale and underbaked dough rounds with all the character of decrusted Franz slices. Southeast Hawthorne's TarBoush does pita—and pretty much everything else—right. The bread at this converted Victorian house is kissed with brown crispiness on the outside while remaining pillowy within. You're going to use a lot of it on the vegetarian mezze platter ($14), which includes unusually thick hummus, acidic tabbouleh and two falafel balls lightly fried to remain pleasantly chewy. Even though you won't finish another appetizer, you'll also want the TarBoush foul moudamas ($8.50), plump fava beans served in a tahini sauce so good you may want to eat it like soup. Entrees are predictably massive, with tart tzatziki and nutty basmati rice sitting separately from the meat to facilitate doggy-bagging.
Ideal meal: Vegetarian mezze, TarBoush foul moudamas and a beef shawarma plate ($15).
Best deal: Chicken shawarma plate ($13).
Pro tip: One side of the restaurant's backyard patio is a smoking section with hookahs. More Portland Middle Eastern restaurants need hookahs.
Noon-10 pm Monday-Thursday, noon-11 pm Friday-Saturday, noon-9 pm Sunday. $$.