“Welcome!” says a sign posted on the banister of a house hidden on Sterling’s Ruritan Circle. “Please come to the kitchen (back of the house) & find Mona.” You already know Mona’s Lebanese Café is not a typical restaurant. Nor is it a typical antique shop, though the same sign says that “most items here are for sale.” Really, it’s more like a visit to the home of your Lebanese grandmother.
Mona Aboul-Hosn will cheerfully seat you at a lace-covered table in the front room and discuss what you might want to order. But even before you look at the menu, you will order a lemonade. It just has to happen. The sip is ideally balanced between sweet and sour, but there’s more: rosewater, which creates an impression of a tangy, refreshing take on Turkish Delight. Perhaps this tipple should be named “Lebanese Delight.”
Vegetarians, or those just avoiding meat for one meal, will have no problem at Mona’s. Options include green beans with tomato sauce, moussaka, and meatless stuffed cabbage. In order to try the greatest variety, you should order Mona’s Platter, a collection of her greatest hits.
You favorite of these will likely be her spinach pie, petite pastries that go beyond their basic filling of tender spinach and onion with an unexpectedly zippy flavor. At the opposite end of the wood tray on which the food is served, the stuffed grape leaves are another major attraction. They’re pinky-finger-sized, so it’s easy to eat the whole pile of about half a dozen tender leaves filled with rice and parsley. The most skippable dish is the unfortunately under-seasoned falafel.
You won’t be able to dine at Mona’s for actual Meatless Monday–it’s closed Sunday through Tuesday. But any other day that you’re avoiding flesh, the cozy little house in Sterling will be ready for you.
1006 Ruritan Circle, Sterling
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