Habibi – Downtown, Portland

What I Ordered
  • Baba ghannouj 
  • Lamb shawarma sandwich combo

In Short: The food and service at Habibi left a lot to be desired, but the friendly owner and happy hour prices make it worth another try. 

My family walked by Habibi and decided to randomly stop in for dinner on a Saturday night. The door was covered with stickers of online review sites and they had positive reviews posted on the walls inside, so we were excited to try some great Lebanese and Syrian food. The inside was very beautiful, with chandeliers and fancy lights, and the restaurant was bustling with people.

Immediately, the service was slow and unenthusiastic. They took a lot of time to notice us, and once we did get seated, they didn’t come back to take our order for an abnormally long time. We also didn’t receive any silverware, even by the time our food did arrive, and we had to call for their attention across the restaurant on multiple occasions. But I like to give the benefit of the doubt and assume that great food will make up for poor service.

We ordered an appetizer of baba ghannouj to share for about $5, and I ordered the lamb shawarma sandwich combo for about $9, which came with salad and hummus.

The highlight of this experience was definitely the baba ghannouj, an eggplant spread that was served with warm pita. This dish was creamy and well-seasoned, and I’m sure we could’ve eaten four dishes of it. This had me looking forward to my entree, but I was sadly disappointed. First, my side salad was tiny – only three bites. The little bit of hummus I got was tasty, but couldn’t compare to the baba ghannouj. I consider myself to be a bit of a shawarma snob, but as long as the meat is juicy and the sandwich is put together well, I’m not too hard to impress. This sandwich was not that. The meat was a bit rubbery and the pita was soppy with not enough vegetables to hold the sauce in. I would have preferred for the server to upsell me on some feta for my sandwich or something to provide more flavor, because it was disappointing.

Shawarma is an incredibly common dish internationally, also known as “gyros,” “doner,” or “tarna” depending on where in the world you are. The word shawarma comes from the Turkish word for “turning” because it is grilled slowly while rotating on a spit for many hours. The meat is shaved directly from the spit onto your pita, and while it originated in the Middle East, it is a popular street food around the world. After my experience at Habibi, I think I’ll be much more likely to order from one of the food carts down the street – a more classic shawarma experience.

Although I didn’t enjoy the staff at Habibi, we did have a good experience with the owner, Mazen. He was very friendly and checked back on us often. All of the recipes in the restaurant are those of his family and I absolutely have an appreciation for that. Habibi is open daily for lunch and dinner and they have an all-day happy hour, which I might very well be back for to give them a second try.

Habibi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato