El Norteno is a very small local chain, with locations in Tucker, Norcross, and Chamblee. The Chamblee location is just...read more →
Update: The restaurant has moved from the location discussed here.
For this week’s BuHi excursion we brought along our nearest and dearest friends, Ashley and Stephen, to help us explore and eat. We thought we were going to a nearby shopping center that boasted signs for a taco joint and “Comida China”, but both places have closed. So it was onward to Lawrence’s Cafe and Restaurant!
This very unassuming building led to to believe we were headed for good but cheap Lebanese food. Incorrect. Pretty much everything on the menu was $10-$18, putting it solidly in a higher price range than some of its BuHi compatriots. Really, it’s a fairly reasonable price, it’s just not what we expected based on the outside. It should also be noted that the lunch menu is 99% sub-$10 pricing.
The inside features a pleasantly dim atmosphere, with pretty Moroccan-style lamps on the ceiling (I suppose they’re actually Lebanese-style, but it’s just the term I know for them) and interesting paintings and rugs hanging on the walls. There is a small bar with a TV. Pleasant, authentic – presumably Lebanese – music was playing, and the light from the windows was filtered with lattices and artificial plants. There is an outdoor patio, but it looks sparse and overlooks the undoubtedly loud BuHi, so I question its pleasantness.
|Lovely atmosphere, salt shakers, and patrons.|
As a group, we ordered: The Dinner Special for Two (Falafel, grape leaves, kibbi, chicken, kafta, and lamb. Served with a phenomenal yogurt, and an appetizer of warm pita, hummus and baba ganoush) $22.95, A Falafel wrap $6.95 with a tabouli side salad $1.50 and a side of spinach pie $3, and Kafta Supreme $13.25 with a side greek salad $1.50.
|Hummus and baba ganoush.|
The food was excellent. I’d not encountered a baba ganoush I care for until now, and I actually liked it more than the hummus. Ashley shared my sentiments, Adam preferred the hummus, and Stephen didn’t care for either, but would still choose the hummus before the baba ganoush. I guess we’re a mixed bag on this issue. The two person meal was very good, and very filling. The highlights for me were the grape leaves, kibbi, and the amazing garlicky yogurt for dipping. I could have eaten that stuff with a spoon. It reminded Adam and I of a garlic spread product we used to get at YDFM.
|Dinner for Two – L2R and F2B – falafel, grape leaves, kibbi, chicken, kafta, and lamb. Served with a phenomenal yogurt.|
Ashley found her tabouli to be surprisingly flavorful. So much so, that after a certain point it became a bit overwhelming. I enjoyed the taste I got of it, but I could also see where she was coming from. Neither of us could fathom eating the dinner-sized portion and feel that the side portion was definitely adequate to get your fill of tabouli. The falafel wrap was quite large, and I’d imagine it was quite filling. This is probably the highest fullness-versus-cost value selection of what we ordered (unless you count the tabouli).
|A sorry picture of Kafta Supreme|
Stephen states that the food quality was good, and he ran into things he did and didn’t like, both on his plate and ours. He attributes his lower enthusiasm about the place to his overall history of not caring very much for Mediterranean foods. But he gave it a good go! He felt that the lamb was cooked a little chewy. My piece was very nicely cook in my opinion (good pink center), but there was a chunk of gristle on it – I’m not as much of a connoisseur of lamb as Stephen is, so I’m not sure if that’s typical or not.
As a group we give it 3.5 stars. Two of us felt it was worth 4, and the other half were feeling only 3. One thing we did all agree on was that the service was excellent. Our server was very nice and attentive, and the cook (proprietor?) even came out to get on us. These are clearly good people.We should note that they have a 5 star average on google reviews. Also, on the somewhat cringe-worthy website I found a coupon for $6 off of any $25 dinner-time purchase.
TLDR: Sub-par external appearance made the prices seem high initially, but the food and service were very good. We recommend giving it a go if you like Mediterranean.
Lawrence’s Cafe & Restaurant
2888 Buford Highway
Atlanta, GA 30329