To Boust or Not to Boust... That is the Question

By Ryan Hutman

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As the clock turns to 2:45, the bars and clubs on Crescent Street begin to close their doors to late night party animals. Around the corner, Boustan and Amir, two Lebanese eateries are beginning to turn their ovens on high in anticipation to the exodus of hungry bar hoppers alike. With only about 200 feet separating the two it seems that a decision must be made between which one to dine. While Boustan has great ambiance and superior food quality, the Amir franchises offer consistent food combos with a greater variety of food items to choose from.


Walking into Boustan, you are immediately met by your long lost Lebanese family. "Halo! Habibi! How is everything shouts owner Imad Smaidi, AKA "Mr. Boustan". "What would you like to eat?" he asks as the line up now begins to pour outside the door. The restaurant menu offers traditional Lebanese cuisine with options for both meat and plant eaters alike. Traditional options for vegetarians include falafel (ground chick-peas), tabouli (boulgar wheat, and parsley), and dolmas (stuffed vine leaves) while the carnivores usually have traditional chicken and beef schwarmas. One amazing aspect of Boustan is  the secret menu which offers unique sandwiches not normally found on traditional Lebanese menus. Try the creation some time, which consists of a pita stuffed with chicken, potatoes, cole slaw, turnips, humus, and homemade hot sauce. The secret to their food masterpiece is the last step in their pita process. After the schwarma and falafel sandwiches have been completed, they are finally set on the hot charcoal grill to toast to perfection. There is something truly special about chowing into a perfectly toasted creation and just letting the medley of vegetables, grilled chicken, and sauces explode in your mouth. Like many first-timers I was convinced they were putting cocaine or some other addictive substance into their food, it was just too good. But it is the love and care of the Boustan staff, which makes their food experience superior to other Lebanese places. Eating at Boustan is truly a unique experience. You never know what life lessons will be extolled by Mr. Boustan or what new delicious combination of foods will be at your disposal.


Walking into Amir you are immediately met by a grumpy woman hesitant to take your order. "What can I get for you?" the woman wails. The wide variety of menu options seems to make up for the lack of customer interaction. The plethora of vegetarian sides offers distinct advantages for vegetarians or those who want to go on the lighter side for the night. The problem, however, are that the dishes are usually not very fresh and the taste is plain and lacking flavor. The sandwiches are not toasted and the beef and chicken is spiced at a sub-Boustan level. The food portions are a bit more generous than at Boustan with prices between the two being about even. Another plus lies in the restaurants spacious layout and superior cleanliness. The fact that Amir is a franchise poses both benefits and drawbacks to its appeal. The food's consistency allows for a following of Amir customers supporting their "Amir option " of choice. People order what they like so a good experience at one Amir strengthens the brand equity of the chain tremendously. This could also lead the company's downfall, as a bad experience will be avoided at all costs. Sadly at 3 in the morning the only customers entering Amir are either uneducated drunken fools or famished friends sick of waiting in the long line up for the real deal.


So the question is really a matter of taste? Do you sacrifice ambiance and quality for quantity and consistency? Absolutely not. Passing up Boustan because there is a line up out the door or because the restaurant is piled with dirty plates and napkins is simply a lame excuse. You would be missing out on a schwarma experience of a lifetime.

Image source: Flickr


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