Serving up Authentic Lebanese Favorites in Gainesville

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By Rena Malai / Photos by Mark Gilvey

Byblos in Gainesville VA

Walid Boustany serves up authentic Lebanese cuisine in Gainesville
at Byblos.

During the Lebanese Civil War, many residents had to flee Lebanon for safety. Walid Boustany was one of them, and he came to the United States in the 1970s to establish a new home. Settling in the Northern Virginia area, he began working in the food industry as a teenager and eventually came to run several successful dining establishments in the greater Washington, D.C. and Richmond areas.

He offers up a piece of Lebanon through owning and operating Byblos restaurant, a Lebanese eatery located in Gainesville. Through a varied menu of traditional Lebanese dishes prepared in house, Prince William residents can experience a culinary expedition on their doorstep.

“Many people in this area have traveled or worked overseas, and may have visited Lebanon and become familiar with the food,” Boustany said. “The idea with opening Byblos is to give them the experience and service they deserve, as there are not many places in the area offering authentic Lebanese food.”

An Authentic Take

Byblos is one of the most ancient cities in the world dating far back to B.C. times, and it is very historic, according to Boustany. It makes sense to name the restaurant after a place steeped in culture, as Boustany says the cuisine at Byblos restaurant is the real thing, authentic Lebanese, not a fusion.

“Byblos, known as Jbeil, is the most beautiful place in Lebanon. It’s known for great seafood, history, and a fun atmosphere,” Boustany said. “What we offer at Byblos restaurant is authentic Lebanese food, exactly the same way they cook and prepare it in Lebanon.”

In this case, authentic means healthy and freshly made food, mostly organic, prepared with lots of fresh produce and flavored with plenty of olive oil, garlic, lemon, and of course some love.

“Lebanese cuisine is very healthy and this is what we make,” Boustany said. “Most everything we have at Byblos is made from scratch.”

That includes their pita bread, which is made to order. Newcomers to Lebanese dishes are encouraged to try the mezze platter which has a mix of stuffed grape leaves, hummus, falafel, and sambousek, a Lebanese-style turnover stuffed with meat or cheese.

The Byblos mixed grill, another customer favorite, has Lebanese style grilled lamb, chicken, and beef kebabs served with veggies and rice. Boustany says both the meze platter and the mixed grill are a great way to sample a variety of Lebanese dishes. But his favorite thing on the menu is the braised lamb shank, which is slow cooked and topped with a flavorful tomato sauce.

Byblos

Boustany highly recommends the braised lamb shank, which is slow cooked and topped with a flavorful tomato sauce

“Lamb is a popular dish in Lebanon,” Boustany said. Keeping up with the fresh take, Byblos offers a juice bar with fresh-squeezed, made-to-order juices like apple, carrot, and orange. Folks more interested in partaking in a non-juice approach can drink in Byblos’ beer and wine selection and imbibe with some traditional Lebanese offerings.

Dessert has an important spot at the restaurant. Homemade assorted baklavas with pistachio, cashews, and almonds and kanufa — a type of Lebanese cheesecake between layers of flaky phyllo — are traditional favorites. But customers can also enjoy crème brulee, Oreo or mango mousse cakes, and chocolate mousse.

Experiencing Byblos

Byblos restaurant has been in Gainesville for about seven years. With long-standing success in the food industry, Boustany operates his business with the help of his family. He and his wife manage Byblos seven days a week, and Boustany says his family is instrumental in keeping things running.

Another part of Lebanese culture that Byblos restaurant goers can experience is belly dancing. A historical and popular form of entertainment in middle eastern regions and Egypt, belly dance performances at Byblos take place every Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:30 and 8:30 p.m.

Byblos restaurant is open seven days a week, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Byblos has well-established catering services for events. Those interested in traditional and authentic Lebanese catered dishes for their next event or celebration can call the restaurant at 571-445-3716 to discuss menu options.

The restaurant is located at 6859 Piedmont Center Plaza in Gainesville, close to the John Marshall Highway. Reservations are not required. Online ordering and take out are offered, as is delivery.

Boustany has lived in the U.S. for decades and although he says he does miss Lebanon, America is home for himself and his family. “This (the U.S.) is where I am a part of, it’s my home, and my family is very happy here,” he said. “I am happy here. It’s where I belong.”

Rena Malai is a freelance journalist and a native Washingtonian. She has written about a variety of topics from tech, to politics, to food. She currently resides in Prince William.

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