Maza's menu delivers the same options one might expect from a street side cafe in Beirut, minus the protestors milling about. The baba ghanoush and hummus openers are as appetizing and ever, and are a must for any Middle Eastern food enthusiast. If you are leaning toward a hot appetizer, lock your sites on the spinach pie and falafel plates and fire away. If you can't decide, which is understandable given the array of options, just choose them all: The Maza deluxe will feed the table with a little bit of each appetizer for $30.
When it's time to order the entrees, the standard chicken and lamb kabobs top the slate, as well as traditional Lebanese plates like lamb tartar and shawirma. If you have your heart set on a more exotic plate, check out the rolled grape leaves stuffed with rice and meat. Couscous eaters can order it as an entree four different ways: with seafood, lamb, veggies or chicken. With its quintet of seafood plates, Maza makes a better destination for pescetarians than the typical Middle Eastern eatery. Despite the creativity of the recipes and the restaurant's prime location, Maza won’t drain your wallet of life. Most entrees run about $10, with filet mignon and lamb chops setting the high water mark at $17.
Maza's front door opens up right into the dining room, with very little space for waiting. The effect is that patrons are whisked instantaneously from the hustle of Lincoln Avenue to a setting of tranquil formality. The peaceful pace is immediately evident, and the service staff encourages this transformation with its perpetual politeness and even keel. Whatever problems existed outside of Maza are not as pressing inside its quiet confines.
It is an intimate space, with seating for maybe three dozen, mostly at small, two-person tables. The white table cloths, polished floors and exquisite place settings encourage you to be on your best behavior. Although the walls, tables, and flooring are brightly colored, the dining room is dimly lit, which matches well with the formal backdrop and intimate tables. The large paintings add a touch more class to an already elegant milieu.
Average cost: $21-$30
Centerstage Reviewer: Patrick Corcoran