Taste the World / 755 Restaurant & Lounge
Photos by kc kratt
755 West Market Street, Niagara Falls, 205-8969 or 755westmarket.com
Owner: Basma Merhi
In business since: 2014
In the heart of Niagara Falls’ Little Italy, housed in a former Knights of Columbus, sits a hidden gem of Middle Eastern cuisine. The 755 Restaurant & Lounge is a family business, owned by Basma Merhi, who also runs the kitchen, and managed by her daughter, Hana. Serving Lebanese food in the middle of red-sauce-dominated Pine Avenue may seem odd, but Hana says the neighborhood is evolving. “People are coming in, making moves,” she says. “It does help that we do serve not only Lebanese food, but also American food. We serve food that we like to eat.”
Hana Merhi says The Feast ($35) is a perfect expression of what Lebanese cuisine is about. Designed to feed at least two—and likely more, depending on appetites—the meal includes creamy hummus and baba ganoush, three crisp and perfectly seasoned falafel, two flaky spinach pastries, fried cauliflower and eggplant, tahini for dipping, as well as your choice of fresh tabouli or fatoush, hand-cut fries or rice, pita, and two meats from a selection of chicken, kafta, lamb, or beef.
Hana explains, “Lebanese food is meant to be shared and enjoyed with your family.” The Feast allows just that. Rather than a table ordering individual dishes and keeping them separate, this selection allows a number of people to try a variety of foods that complement one another. Forks reaching across the table to grab a bit of this or that are expected, and share plates are provided. “There’s a lot of history behind it. It’s not just a meal; there’s culture behind it,” Hana says.
And French fries are a part of that heritage, though, as Hana notes, “People are surprised when they come in here and see fries, but Lebanese people put fries in everything.” Lebanese food is very fresh and not spicy, a fact that may surprise some people.
“A lot of customers come in requesting dishes that they grew up with, things that they haven’t had in forty years, that their grandmothers used to make. The best compliment we can get is it tastes like grandmother’s cooking,” says Hana. She and her mother also love introducing people who’ve never eaten the cuisine to the flavors and experience.
While the family behind 755 wants to share its culture with guests, an enjoyable meal is the ultimate goal. Whether that be in the form of a hamburger, fish fry, chicken parmigiana, or falafel, they’re going to share tasty food with a generous side of Lebanese hospitality.
Nick Guy is an editor for Wirecutter and writes for other publications.