A few years ago a new restaurant opened up near us. I didn’t notice right away because nothing changed about the building — it was a mom & pop beer & wine store that I went to once, but avoided because it was dark and seedy looking inside. At some point they added a small dining area and served food, but it just didn’t appeal to me.
Then a couple of signs appeared on the front window. One declared they served the “Best Crab Cakes in Bethesda” and the other advertised free broadband wifi. Now that caught my attention. I saw that the name of the restaurant changed from “Something Something Beer and Wine” to “Lilit“. Dean also noticed the change and suggested we stop in sometime.
Around the time we noticed the changes, our friends David and Alison told us they’d been going to an Armenian restaurant within walking distance of their home. After a couple of minutes discussion we realized they were talking about Lilit. They said the food was good and the wine prices reasonable, but the best thing about the establishment was the owners. The owners were very friendly and knew David and Alison on sight and always seemed delighted that they stopped in.
Now, this may not be special to you — especially if you don’t live in the Bethesda area, but this is really unusual around here. Most dining establishments around here are so busy that they don’t have time to remember regulars, (although we are not regulars anywhere in Bethesda, except maybe Pines of Rome — and they are not very friendly there).
The first time I dined at Lilit, I was with my friends Alison and Janet. We’d just seen a film and wanted a meal afterwards. We looked at the restaurants in downtown Bethesda, but there were no seats to be had on a Saturday evening, so Alison suggested Lilit. I’d been wanting to go ever since she mentioned it, so I said yes.
We were greeted warmly by a young man who told us to sit where we wanted to. It was rather late, and the hours of operation stated they were closing in an hour, so the dining room was empty, except for us. I chose a bottle of wine from the wine rack, the young man opened it while we waited for our food which we’d ordered at the counter.
I ordered the crab cake, Janet had the eggplant parmigiana sub, I don’t recall what Alison had, but she liked it. We all liked our food. The crab cake was the best I’d had in Bethesda. The prices were very reasonable – the wine cost the same as it would have cost at the local wine store — they don’t mark it up like most restaurants do.
Because I liked the restaurant so much, I encouraged Dean to go soon after I went with Janet and Alison. We both had the crab cakes, and Dean agreed that they were the best he’d had. That time there was a different person behind the counter, but he was just as friendly as the young man earlier.
For a while, I often went for take-out and was greeted warmly each time. Then the ownership changed – from the older man to the young man who served me the first time. He made some changes, like creating a web site for the restaurant. He also has periodic wine tastings and sends out newsletters about once a month.
Now when I stop in, the owner, Davinder, greets me warmly and, if he hasn’t seen me in a while, remarks on that. The food continues to be delicious and reasonable. The wine, is always good and if we don’t finish a bottle we can take it home with us. The best part continues to be the friendliness of the staff.
I am trying to work my way though the menu — and have sampled many of the sandwiches, but I always go back to the crab cakes. They are very good. They also have a gelato machine and make it fresh often. It’s very good — and if I can believe their claims, better for me than ice cream!
Tonight we stopped in for dinner. I had the crab cake platter and a new addition to their menu – daal soup. It was delicious and filling. Dean liked it too, and Davinder pretty much told me how it was made. I’ll try to make it sometime, but if they continue to carry it, I might just stop in Lilit for a bowl now and then instead.
While Dean likes the restaurant, he’s not as entranced as I am, but the only specific comment he’s had is that he wishes they offered regular bread, and not just gluten free. Clare doesn’t like the bread, and none of the few vegetarian options are things she likes much. (she did not like the daal soup when I brought a bowl home for her to try). They do have a sandwich with fresh mozzarella and roasted peppers that she tried, which she said was ok. The peppers should have been roasted a bit more for her taste though. However, Clare is rather picky about her food.
We were a little worried that Lilit might not survive, given its location (far from the main section of Bethesda) and the fact that it was not filling up evenings, but recently we’ve seen all tables filled on the weekends. Last night we had to briefly wait for a table; and other folks, who came in later, had to wait longer for tables. So, we’re confident that if they continue to fill up at night and on weekends, they will survive. Hope the owner doesn’t burn out though. Except for one time when his friend took over for him, he’s always been there when I’ve stopped by.