A new restaurant Leila opened in downtown Detroit this week, bringing modern and sophisticated Lebanese cuisine to the neighborhood. Anchoring a corner of the renovated Farwell Building, Leila joins an increasingly buzzy crop of restaurants and bars encircling the perimeter of Capitol Park.
Father and son partners Sameer and Samy Eid are known for restaurants with exquisite food but also refined hospitality. Sameer purchase his first restaurant Phoenicia more than 48 years ago in Highland Park. Over the years, and through a relocation to Birmingham, he built it into one of metro Detroit’s premiere fine-dining Lebanese restaurants. In 2015, the Eids purchased the longstanding Forest Grill, trimming back its name to Forest and revitalizing the interior and menu.
At Leila, Sameer and Samy Eid took elements of Phoenicia and disposed of the white tablecloths for a slightly more casual atmosphere. Forest’s chef Nick Janutol took the lead in menu development at Leila, named after Sameer’s wife. (Her photo makes an appearance on the printed menu.) Leila’s focus is primarily on mezze, small snacks meant to be shared family-style. Customers can mix and match cold options like tabbouleh and labneh with hot items like grilled kibbeh, makanek (spicy lamb sausage), falafel. The dishes are rounded out by meals like fish stew and Leila’s bolognese.
From the bar, expect a variety of wines available by the glass or bottle and a few beers including a Lebanese pilsner. The cocktail list features drinks with Middle Eastern ingredients such as “the Beirut” with arak, pomegranate juice, and tonic water, and simple syrup.
The 4,300-square-foot restaurant has 130 seats including 19 surrounding a rectangular bar at the center of the dining room. The interior features white walls and black tile that’s accented by big black and rose-colored booths and an assortment of similarly hued soft pink furnishings. The main space looks into an open kitchen. At the basement level, Leila also features a private dining space.
Leila is now accepting reservations for dinner seven days a week with plans to expand into lunch service in early December. Photographer Michelle Gerard took a tour of the space. Scope out Detroit’s latest downtown destination below.
Leila is located at 1249 Griswold St.
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