GQ is an international monthly magazine formerly known as Gentlemen’s Quarterly. The publication covers a wide range of topics from style and fashion, to politics and culture.
Reporting on culture, GQ publishes a yearly list of best new eateries. In 2020, before the pandemic became what it is, writer Brett Martin was able to visit 23 cities, dining at 93 restaurants.
Saving the best for last, Martin adds to the list a downtown Detroit restaurant called Leila, which as you can tell from the headline, is Lebanese!
In fact, it’s so Lebanese to the core that the restaurant’s emblem is taken right from the design of Lebanon’s traditional coffee cup.
Opened by Samy Eid, the son of Lebanese immigrants who own the decades-old family restaurant Phoenicia in Birmingham Michigan, Leila was affectionately named for his mother.
“The genius behind each mythical meal is and always has been my mother, Leila,” wrote Samy on the restaurant’s website. “Leila is an homage to her and to the heritage and traditions she holds so close to her heart.”
The food, as Martin describes it, is “both modern and rooted in tradition.” On the menu, you can find authentic fixes and eat your heart through cold mezze, hot mezze. You can choose from a number of entrees like samak harra, tawook, and even the Eid family’s Sunday-creation Leila’s Bolognese.
For the sweet tooth, the restaurant also offers traditional Lebanese desserts like homemade ice cream with fairy floss aka ‘Ghazl el Banet’, or even modern twists with Middle Eastern flavors such as rose syrup or zaatar caramel.
“To eat Leila’s food is to sense what all the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean and live-fire restaurants of recent years are chasing—comfort, community, generosity, restoration,” writes Martin.
Martin also points out the Lebanese sense of humor, for, in the bathroom, you’ll hear an endless loop of the song ‘Layla’ by Derek and the Dominos.
“It’s a way to make sure you leave humming the name, carrying the place with you,” he says. Smart marketing!
Located below Leila is the upscale yet underground Loulou’s Lounge, which could explain why Martin describes the restaurant as a big space yet “a little clubby once the sun goes down.”
Leila’s is a place where sacred Sunday lunch can extend to all days of the week, and offers an alluring new spot for nights out in the city.