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Dar Salam: Restaurant Guide 2014

2921 NE Alberta St., 206-6148, darsalamportland.com

[BAGHDAD'S BEST] It's hard not to root for a restaurant with a story like Dar Salam's. Two grade-school friends from Baghdad, one of whom was hit by a roadside bomb after the U.S. invaded Iraq, reunited in Portland in 2011. The two families have now made Dar Salam into one of the most satisfying spots on Alberta. Enter this charming old carriage house and you'll find yellow walls cluttered with framed photos, servers dressed in red embroidered vests, and rich, comforting flavors. The menu reads much like that at a Lebanese restaurant: shawarma, kebabs, mezza platters with hummus and falafel and zingy tzatziki. But don't stop at the familiar dishes. The Iraqi take on dolma ($8.50) substitutes the grape leaves for onions filled with rice, spices, pomegranate and sun-dried tomatoes. The marga, a slow-cooked, cardamom-scented chickpea stew, is a must ($9, $13 with lamb). For dessert, try the gaemar ($4), yogurt that's whipped into the texture of butter and molded into a little tower—it looks something like a soft-serve cone—and blanketed with a dreamy, creamy date honey. REBECCA JACOBSON

Pro tip:

The restroom situation leaves something to be desired—on our visit, we were directed across the street to Branch Whiskey Bar. Pee in advance.

11 am-10 pm Monday-Saturday. $-$$