1318 SE Hawthorne
Date of Visit: September 23, 2009
Price for 2 (with tip) $23
Middle Eastern restaurants in Portland have a big hurdle to overcome by the name of Nicholas’s. Typically if a place is small and boasts long waits in this city, it is totally overpriced and over rated, but not so with Nicholas’s. It is hands down the best Lebanese food I have ever had, and for that reason, I’d never even bothered to try Riyadh’s before. Since it’s at the start of the Hawthorne strip, we’ve passed by it over and over, so it was nice to finally check it off the list!
So obviously I am going to compare it to Nicholas’s, where the the lavash bread is served family style, fresh from the oven and cascading over metal racks in the center of the table. Basically, the lavash is what makes the place so good, and by comparison, Riyadh’s small disks of lavash we’re obviously not freshly made and had been reheated.
We started with a hummus appetizer, which would have been better with better pita, but was overall flavorful and satisfying. I had a falafel sandwich with a cup of lentil soup. Ignore me if I am dwelling too much on the bread, but decent fillings were again wrapped in the hard pita and softer bread would have made it awesome, instead of just ok. The lentil soup, however, was creamy and delicious. Also at the table was majaora and a house salad. The rice and lentil dish came topped with friend onions that we’re probably the best part, but I only had one bite.
Unfortunately, I have more bad news for Riyahd’s. Speed wise, it took a while to have our order taken and the check brought at the end, not ideal for lunch. However, it was infinitely quicker than Nicholas’s, where even midweek, midday, you are going to wait just for a table. We were seated right away. As for beating Nicholas’s, it was definitely cheaper in some respects, and that whole not having to wait thing was key.