Where to Get Authentic Middle Eastern Food
Arlington's Bluemont neighborhood is home to two gems: Layalina and House of Mandi
In the mood for authentic Middle Eastern? These two gems on Wilson Boulevard in Arlington’s Bluemont neighborhood are worth a visit—for the company and the food.
Owners Souheil (Sam) and Rima Kodsi have enjoyed a loyal following for the past 20 years, but they saw a surge of customers in February after President Trump called for a travel ban on residents from seven countries, including Rima’s native Syria.
“It started with a stranger who came in and said, ‘We love you and we want you to stay in business,’ ” Sam recalls. “Then a family at a table nearby overheard and the dad showed me his phone. The neighborhood association had put something up online saying, ‘Go to Layalina and support them.’ ”
Sam was born in Lebanon, though his father’s job as a telephone engineer for the Syrian government took his family all over the Middle East. After traveling to the U.S. in 1969 and attending flight school in Manassas, Sam returned to his family, then in Damascus. That’s where he met Rima in 1972. (Actually re-met; their families had been neighbors when they were in sixth grade.) They married the following year and came back stateside. Sam worked as a pilot for Colgan Airways before switching to hotel management and serving as head of banquets for the Vista International Hotel in D.C. from 1982 to 1996. In 1997, he and Rima opened Layalina (named for their youngest daughter, Layal), crafting their menu around Rima’s grandmother’s recipes. www.layalinarestaurant.com
On the Menu
Hummus (a family recipe, of course)
M’hammarah: a red pepper and walnut dip
Lamb shank simmered with tomatoes and mushrooms in pomegranate-lemon sauce
Baby okra simmered with olive oil, garlic and tomatoes