Established in 1979, Lebanese Taverna has become a beloved local chain with 12 locations across the DC Metro area. But the business that has become familiar to many in Arlington began as a business with not only a borrowed space, but a borrowed name. Grace Abi-Najm Shea, current owner and daughter of the founder of the Lebanese Taverna shared with us that the building where they started their business, previously operated under the name Athenian Taverna and that the name Lebanese Taverna was “born out of necessity.”
And so it began. Originally selling Greek cuisine alongside the Lebanese food of her family’s upbringing and taste, Lebanese Taverna customers started asking more and more for the food the family would eat in the restaurant instead of the food they were selling. After about a year, the menu was converted to full Lebanese food. And while they still served some of the Greek specialties for the first 25 years, this coming summer will mark 31 years of serving the best Lebanese cuisine around.
If you listen to the interview, you will hear just some of the stories that have made this business into what it has become. Whether it’s stories of her brothers giving the keys to customers to lock up when they were done, or the occasional customer stopping to greet Grace in the middle of our interview, you can feel the trust between this business and its customers. Lebanese Taverna has become a cornerstone of the Lee Highway community and we are excited to see how this reputation and trust will ensure its successful operation for many years to come.
4400 Old Dominion Dr Arlington, VA 22207
Grace Abi-Najm Shea and family, by Lebanese Taverna
“In 1979, my father found out that this little shop on the corner of McKinley and Washington Blvd. was for sale. It was owned by a Greek family, and at that time was called the ‘Athenian Taverna.’ My siblings helped my dad negotiate the lease, because his English was pretty poor. We didn’t have enough money to change the whole sign. Hence was born, ‘Lebanese Taverna.'”Grace Abi-Najm Shea, owner
“Our customer base is so loyal. I mean it’s just, it’s unbelievable. We have grandparents, parents, children, that have all been coming here for so long, because we’ve been around for 37 years.”Grace Abi-Najm Shea, owner
“We’ve become more than food to people. And people have become more than customers to us. It’s really what keeps us going.”Grace Abi-Najm Shea, owner
Full Interview on Arlington’s WERA 96.7