Middle Eastern dining as a rule is casual. Much of the food that is served in Middle Eastern restaurants has roots in street food tradition. Shawarma, falafel, kibbeh, and hummus can, and usually is, served in the form of a sandwich that can be easily transported and eaten.
The idea of a white tablecloth Middle Eastern restaurant seems discordant. Street food isn't elegant. Somehow, though, moves beyond the street food standard toward Middle Eastern as a special occasion option.
Granite floors, huge comfy booths, and waitstaff in shirts and ties, Habib's is the exact of opposite of 's—which is not to say Tuhama's is inferior but it is definitely different.
There are some exotic menu items, but the focus is high quality, impeccably prepared Middle Eastern food. Items like Malsee (Lahme Madkouka), a pureed beef dish, or Hindbee (dandelion greens) do not show up on every restaurant's menu. In addition, pizza, pasta, and hamburgers are also available. While this is not a stretch necessarily, these items do seem incongruous with the overall feel of the restaurant.
Whether or not the pizza at Habib's is good I couldn't tell you because the traditional cuisine is near perfect.
Start with the Appetizer combo. Generous portions of hummus, fattoush, tabouli, and baba ghanouj are studded with two falafel and two vegetarian grape leaves. Falafel is my weak spot. Habib's version has a prefectly crunchy exterior, one that snaps when you break the patty in half. The gently spiced, creamy interior is dreamy. Falafel like this doesn't come around often.
Vegetarian grape leaves, at least where I grew up, tend to be soft with an almost melt in your mouth texture. In terms of food memories, Habib's grape leaves bring me right back to my childhood. No small feat considering I normally yearn for my great aunt's grape leaves when I bite to any other one. Habib's almost made me forget about my aunt's—almost.
The rest of the platter is all good to very good. Crisp, fresh, bright fattoush, ultra creamy hummus, garlicky baba, and verdant tabouli are all made well. Fresh pita bread is a must to transport food from dish to mouth.
Another unique thing about Habib's is the amount of side dishes and what they are. For example, the "signature" side dish is Habib's potato balls, little orbs of deep fried potatoey goodness. Similar to a french fry in texture, these potatoes are topped with fresh thyme and are lovely dipped in toum (garlic sauce).
French fries and rice pilaf among other sides are also available if deep fried potato balls don't strike your fancy.
As for the entrees, my baseline comparsion is shawarma, chicken first then beef (or lamb). In this case, though, both are excellent. The beef is tender, lemony, and savory. Chicken is obviously sliced off a spit. Moist on the inside with charred bits on the outside, pick up a couple hunks of chicken with fresh baked pita and drizzle a litte toum on top for a heavenly sandwich.
Even though Habib's focuses on atmosphere as much as food, nothing suffers. The elegance of the ambiance shines while the food could stand alone anywhere in Dearborn, or metro Detroit for that matter. Habib's is a place that could be an everyday restaurant or a special occassion destination. The combination of food, atmosphere, and service make Habib's a must visit when in Dearborn.