On Friday we headed over to Byblos Lebanese Grill for dinner. Opening only a day or two before, we were expecting the usual service issues but were really looking forward to having a new ethnic restaurant in town to deliver fresh and flavorful meals outside the same-old same-old. With a recent visit to Los Angeles providing me with a reminder of what excellent Lebanese is all about, I went into Byblos with an open mind hoping to be blown away by this new Burnsville restaurant.
Surprisingly, the restaurant is setup for fast casual and has a counter for ordering which runs the wrong way for this type of restaurant. It was busy and people were cramming into the narrow space between the counter and the wall to stare at the flatscreen TVs hanging above displaying the menu. There were two people manning the register, one which appeared to be training the other. I took a few copies of the printed menu and brought them back to the table to look over.
The menu is small, inexpensive, and repetitive. Several of the items appear in two different spots on the menu requiring you to be specific when you place your order which creates its own set of problems when placing an order with new staff members. There are the usual Middle Eastern items including gyro, hummus, kibbe(h), etc. While there are any number of items to order we still found ourselves struggling to find anything we were dying to try. I was expecting more traditional Lebanese dishes, not the same tired dishes you see just about anywhere, so I admit I was pretty disappointed in what was being offered but thought perhaps they were trying to keep the menu limited in order to deliver high quality food even though they just opened their doors.
After looking over the menus, we placed orders for an Gyro Pita ($6.95) with tabouli, Kafta ($6.95), Shawarma Pita ($7.95) with house salad, kids’ Beef Kabob ($4.75) and hummus ($3.95) at the counter. Not including the Gyro Pita, which my sister-in-law ordered herself, our total came to just over $25 for our meal. Nothing outrageous here for fast-casual.
Even though the place was fairly busy and it just recently opened, our meals were out fairly quickly. The portions were large and even though they were similarly priced to the offerings of Pita Plus, there were at least sides including hummus, tabouli, fries, and/or a house salad.
The Wife’s Shawarma Pita, described as, “Thin slices of top sirloin beef, marinated in spices and sauteed. Topped with tomatoes, red onions, and tahini sauce,” came out with the requested house salad which has a lemon and garlic dressing. It was a large portion and tasted ok but wasn’t anything I’d order again. Aside from being a large portion there just wasn’t anything about the sandwich that stood out at different than any other meat sandwich available at any number of other places, including Subway. The salad, nothing special itself, was loaded with entirely too much garlic (and I love garlic). Seriously, it’s another 4 months until Halloween, the vampires don’t need to be warded off quite yet. Yeah, it was a sandwich and it was cheap but it tasted that way and I’m pretty sure that’s not what any restaurant owner wants to hear.
The Gyro Pita, described on the menu as: “Ground beef and lamb mixed with spices, slowly cooked and thinly sliced. Topped with tomatoes, red onions, and tahini sauce,” came out as described but was wrapped in a cheap and thin pita that made the throwaway pile of garbage at Pita Plus look like a major upgrade. The meat definitely wasn’t thinly sliced but the rest was there. The meat was fine, certainly better than the dried out and boring trash they serve at Pita Plus, but overall the sandwich was a big “meh” for my sister-in-law. The single small taste of the meat that I had found it to taste like any other foil-wrapped, gas station-purchased gyro I’ve ever had, but nothing which would make it stand out at all from any other place where you could find third-rate gyros. In addition to the subpar sandwich, the tabouli was unimpressive. Bright and colorful, sure. Fresh and flavorful, nope. A definite pass for me. My sister-in-law agreed that it was just lacking any and all flavor however she noted that after a few bites she had an uncomfortable burning of unknown origins from the salad. I’m all about burn but I guess I’d like it disclosed on the menu if I should expect it or not.
The Rooster’s Kid’s Beef Kabob was exactly that. A couple of pieces of beef with a few pieces of zucchini alongside fries. The beef was tough but juicy and basically tasteless. I have made plenty of far more impressive kabobs than this myself and honestly the lack of effort was clear with the choice of a single vegetable. The Rooster wasn’t a fan at all and the few pieces I tried were so tough I had problems eating them myself so I certainly understood him being apprehensive. I was quite concerned he may choke on the tough meat but because butter knives aren’t conducive to cutting through shoe leather, I had to do my best to tear the meat with my hands and/or teeth. Not cool.
My Kafta (picture at top of this review) was described as, “Ground beef mixed with chopped onions, parsley and spices, rolled in fresh pita and grilled until crispy. Served with pickles, tomatoes, and hummus.” The ground beef would have been fine had I ordered a hamburger cooked medium-well. Unfortunately, I ordered what should have been a flavorful dish wrapped in a fresh pita instead of a thin and crumbly day-old throw away from Aldi with overcooked and under-seasoned beef. The tomatoes were almost red but still mostly orange–so gross.
- Attention restaurant owners: either source your vegetables from places that sell hot-house tomatoes or do not put them on your menu. No one wants to eat bitter and tasteless tomatoes. Really, in all honesty, no one wants to eat them like that, no one. Not one single person.
The pickles weren’t your standard hamburger dills or anything, although maybe they should have been considering the way the dish tasted, but really brought nothing useful to the dish. The hummus, like the appetizer we ordered, was boring. It wasn’t zippy or tangy and could have very well be brought in instead of being housemade. The worst part of the hummus wasn’t the hummus itself but instead the low quality olive oil used. Seriously, I’ve tasted gasoline that had better flavor than the olive oil they over-applied. Even Cub’s cheap-as-all-hell olive oil tastes 1000x better than the garbage they put on a plate on Friday night. Nasty. Seriously nasty.
Service, being that it was fast casual with a counter-ordering format, was non-existent. The only people I saw working were under the age of 21. While this isn’t a problem, you would think that the ownership would be going table to table to ensure everything was excellent. They would have found out that it simply wasn’t very good. In fact, I had some choice words for it on Twitter which I will not repeat here.
Overall, Byblos is below average quality but has below average prices to match. While I told MSPD via SMS that it was on par with Pita Plus, I was exaggerating bit–but not by much. Pita Plus has low quality meat and doesn’t have many sides to go with each dish although it has better quality (and believe me, that’s a shock) pita and prices them the same. While I placed a eight month time limit on Byblos, I may have been generous. For a place which claims you should “Taste the Freshness,” and, “Experience the Tradition!” I think they have a very long way to go to meet either of those and I simply don’t see it happening with the boring and pedestrian Americanized Middle Eastern items they have on their menu as of today.
Have you eaten at Byblos in Burnsville? If so what did you have and what did you think? Have you had Lebanese food before and if so, where? Do you think that they are making their pitas in house or do you think they’re selling stale, day-old leftovers from Aldi? Are you disappointed that yet another place that should have been promising is delivering the same stale and boring concept seen at any number of other failed/failing establishments around town? Did you go to Byblos and enjoy what you had? If so what did you have that was so good? What other Middle Eastern restaurants have you eaten at recently (or ever)? Whatever you have to say about this one go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Byblos Lebanese Grill
14637 County Rd 11
Burnsville, MN 55337
952-431-3663 or 612-327-3663
See all the pictures from Byblos Lebanese Grill on Flickr here.