For our second sampling of JG’s best of LA, we made the trek from Agoura Hills to Hollywood for the long standing Lebanese staple, Marouch. This time Zaya had his wife had their three kids, plus myself and my two kids all crammed in their family Suburban. I had the privilege of sitting shot gun and playing DJ. We lucked out, as even though it was Friday night at 7pm, the 101 buzzed along without too much stop and go as we moved to the sounds of Michael Jackson, Julia Holter, Fleetwood Mac and Abba (who had had fast become a third generation passion in our family….well, for some of us). As night fell, we pulled into a strip mall off Santa Monica Blvd. The lit up Marouch sign sitting meekly under the boastful 7/11 neon.
This time our 70 year old parents met us there as did The Vining’s, old time family friends and long time LA natives. We were promptly accommodated with a table for 12 and upon sitting a few of us ordered the lebanese beer, Almaza. Maria, my sister in law, and I were delighted by how crisp and light it was, a new favorite.
The table relinquished their ordering privileges and let Zay and I take over. Our server, “call me Bob,” was the consummate host and partner, guiding us through the menu and helping us settle on quantities. When I told him we were here under the guidance of Jonathan Gold, he placed his hand on his chest and told us “what a great man Jonathan was,” how he’d “served him and his family many times” and how Jonathan “was instrumental in the success of this family business.” Bob had worked at Marouch for 16 years.
Zaya wrote our order (paper and pencil!) so we could read it aloud to Bob. He edited and approved. After ordering, Zaya and I took in the table and the enjoyment this overall mission of 101 was bringing us. I told him “when I die, I hope people say I gave great dinner parties.” To me there is nothing better than the buzz of a crowded table of smart people eating and drinking together. Isaiah admitted he “had trouble differentiating between Lebanese and Persian cuisine.” I agreed.
In Gold’s review he focuses on the rivalry between Marouch and Carousel the Glendale institution I’d been to years ago when we lived there, but Marouch, like Langer’s, felt somehow cozier in its seedy setting. Including the perfectly preserved payphone archived outside the restrooms. Big kicks for the kids who had never seen such a strange contraption!
The authenticity did not disappoint. Neither did the food. The recommended roast chicken was spot on, perfect crisp crusted falafel, but it was the babaganoush that was hands-down the best we’d ever had. For the capper Maria and I had espresso size cups of middle eastern, inky coffee and pistachio, rose water rice pudding for the table, that was simultaneously gelatinous and delicious. Hershey kisses were doled out from a dish for the kids.
When we left I asked to grab a picture with our server Bob, who gamely complied and took his glasses off for the photo. That really moved me. It wasn’t until we were walking to our car that I realized we were on the corner of Edgemont, the street my husband Matt and I lived on in our first apartment together almost twenty years ago.