History has a tendency to overlook the Lebanese heritage of and migration into the Twin Cities and Minnesota as a whole. While spots like Zakia Deli and Emily’s Lebanese Deli help provide a rich context to the Lebanese food and history here in the Twin Cities, Sultan Authentic Lebanese Restaurant in Fridley is a welcome addition to the cuisine’s lineage. As with most of the best places, you will have to dig to find it, but what you’ll find at Sultan is totally worth the journey out to the ‘burbs.
The corridor of Central Avenue running from downtown, through Columbia Heights, and out to Fridley is the Twin Cities’ modern-day Route 66, peppered with a wide variety of restaurants and businesses. It’s near here that the best Lebanese food can be found, beginning with Emily’s Lebanese Deli at University Avenue and Sixth Street in Northeast. This staple of Lebanese fare gets a bump for being located across the street from the site of Minneapolis’ annual Lebanese Festival, held at St. Maron’s Church each September. Farther along, by Broadway and Stinson, rests Zakia Deli, which boasts a ton of Lebanese fare alongside Greek and American food. Passing by these classic establishments is hard, but by the time you reach the border of Fridley and Spring Lake Park, you’ll find Sultan, a fairly new Lebanese restaurant in the remnants of a former Wendy’s.
While Sultan may seem a little quaint, tucked away as it is from the urban hubbub, historic photos hanging on the wall and the food itself help transport you through Lebanon’s rich history, both cultural and culinary. The menu at Sultan tips its hat to its predecessors by including a wide array of kabobs and shawarma to satisfy the hungriest appetites, while also serving fantastic renditions of staple favorites from Lebanese cuisine that have been brought to life with Sultan’s own personal touches and inventive variations.
Diners are greeted by a wide array of options, from those expected kabob and shawarma platters and sandwiches to even more traditional favorites. A great example of the latter is Sultan’s take on Batata Harra, made with a heap of cilantro and garlic mixed into fried, cubed potatoes. Their Labneh (a yogurt and mint dish swimming in an insane amount of olive oil) is a perfect dipping condiment for items like Fried Kibbeh, made with ground beef and bulgur, and lavishly spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice. Another standout version of an old standard is Sultan’s Musakhan Rolls, which look similar to egg rolls to the untrained eye due to being wrapped in a thin sheet of phyllo dough after they’ve been stuffed with roasted chicken, sumac, and onions.
The tabbouleh on Sultan’s menu is a great example of how a slight twist on tradition can have a big impact. Unlike in classic tabboulehs, where all the ingredients but the tomatoes are finely minced and mixed together, Sultan’s version has a coarser chop of parsley and mint. This combines with plentiful bursts of bright olive oil, salt, pepper, and lemon juice to stimulate all your senses to the max, preparing you for a feast of truly epic proportions. For the main entree, the chicken shawarma sandwich gives you equal heaps of chicken shawarma, garlic sauce, and pickles wrapped in a freshly grilled pita. To close out your meal, get the Knafeh, made with phyllo so coarse that it crumbles. Doused in simple syrup with subtle hints of rosewater, it’s the perfect end to a meal, along with mint tea to help digest the wonder you’ve just experienced.
So, until the Cities' true gems of the annual Lebanese Festivals in West St. Paul and northeast Minneapolis roll around, Sultan’s offerings will nicely tide you over.
7601 Hwy 65 NE, Fridley