As Beirut slowly loses its culinary landmarks, meet the cousins who are passionate about keeping theirs alive.
In a world where creativity and technology are available at the tip of our fingers, we are easily consumed with the term “new.” Due to its presence in our everyday lives we are often blind to what is truly precious and cherishable. However, the saying that is often said is “Old but Gold” and it is about to give credit where its due. Al Soussi is an off the map family restaurant that has been passed down for generations, starting with its founder, Abou Mahmoud Al Soussi. The restaurant’s first location in Downtown Beirut first opened in 1890 and after 85 years relocated to Chehade Street, in Mar Elias, where it has been since 1975.
Today, Raji Kebbe and Ahmad Al Soussi, the grandchildren of Abou Mahmoud, run Al Soussi. Known for their irresistible Foul and Hummus dishes, that not only capture your taste buds but the true culture and roots of Lebanon as well, the recipes that the cousins prepare today are almost identical to the ones their grandfather used.
Al Soussi is living proof that bigger isn’t always better. The restaurant itself doesn’t hold more than 20 people, but it serves up to 80 satisfied customers a day from 8am to 1:30pm.
The secret of Al Soussi, is that while others are constantly thinking of ways to change in order to keep up with the booming trends, the family business simply sticks to what works – recipes that have been around for over a century and the passion to make them with love. To my surprise, when I walked in, my eyes only caught sight of one chef. The current and only chef of the restaurant, Raji Kebbe, who has a smile as inviting as his food, has been making the same dishes since he was a kid working with his grandpa. Only minor recipe changes have been made since the original owner has opened, and after tasting each dish, it was clear that whatever changes had been made were only for the better.
Swept away with the smell of the food, it was hard choosing only one dish, so we tried a little of everything on the menu. Starting with the mixed vegetables and ending with the fatteh, every bite felt like a meal coming out of your own kitchen and it had the hospitality to match it.
As they say, never judge a book by its cover…and Al Soussi’s cover is definitely not one to go by. Sure it’s a small place, with plastic chairs and cutlery – but that’s just all part of its charm, and somehow adds to your eating experience.
Unfortunately, the future of Al Soussi is uncertain. As Raji and Ahmad’s children have followed different career paths, it’s unclear just how this family business will continue. To see such a Beirut establishment be lost as just a part of our cultural history will definitely be a shame, but all the more reason to enjoy this Beirut gem while it’s still around.
Al Soussi is located on Chehade Street in the Mar Elias neighbourhood. Open daily from 8am till 1.30pm.
Tel: 01/312 145