Layla is the favorite, or so the joke goes within the family. Of the seven daughters and one son, it was Layla whose Arabic name best encompassed the Lebanese restaurant. At least that’s what Christiane, my server and one of the daughters, said.
After almost a decade on King Street in Old Town Alexandria, the family reopened in Woodbridge, closer to their home. The name Layla remained the same, as did much of the menu. This space is narrow and minimal, save for the various decorative light fixtures, like the one built as an artist’s rendition of a bird’s nest.
The plates are familiar, straightforward Middle Eastern fare with a platter of tangy baba ghanoush; crunchy falafel whose shell is decorated in sesame seeds; a lemony, parsley-forward tabbouleh; and grape leaves that simply melt. Soft, silky eggplant blends into a tomato sauce teeming with clusters of ground beef. A mixed grill platter is all winners: Kafta is a juicy log of meat, chicken and lamb profit from a slathering of the zippy garlic whip, and the rice pilaf is somehow so plain yet somehow so buttery and alluring—a reminder why the humble grain thrived over continents and generations.
Just like how a best friend isn’t one person but a level of friendship (credit: Mindy Kaling), baklava is also only a category. On display for dessert are five variations with different nuts (pistachios, walnuts, cashews) and shapes (square, log, bird’s nest) and phyllo manipulated to take on a dousing of rosewater syrup, all sweet and a treat.
Layla’s Lebanese Restaurant
Lebanese | $$
2217 Old Bridge Road, Woodbridge