Knafeh on a white plate, topped with crushed pistachio and rose petals, two forks on either side

Levant Bistro: Dedicated Gluten-Free in Los Angeles

A visit to Levant Bistro in Echo Park is an immersive encounter with the food culture of the Mediterranean’s Levant region. The menu is packed with traditional Lebanese food, as well as neighboring cuisine.

Levant Bistro had its beginnings in a food blog. The first restaurant opened in North Carolina, after owner and blogger, Anita Khalek, received a medical diagnosis that started her on a food journey. She re-discovered fresh, organic, local food inspired by her childhood and is on a mission to share it with others on a similar journey.

The expansion to Los Angeles was thanks to Anita’s persistent brothers, Hatem & Dany, who talked her into a West Coast location. The brothers run this restaurant, and it is a special place. You can see the pride they have in their family business and in the presentation and quality of each dish.

One of the brothers mentioned possibly expanding to Orange County, and all I can say is, “yes, please!”

View of restaurant with diners talking and eating at tables and a pastry display in the foreground

From fresh vegetables and hummus to nuts, seafood, and flatbread, the food at Levant Bistro is authentic. And so is the atmosphere. The servers are friendly. The menu begs for sharing and family-style dining. And the music transports you to the other side of the globe. It was a food experience that left me feeling grateful.

Gluten-Free and More

Everything at Levant Bistro is gluten-free, which means gluten-free foodies can finally enjoy one of the best things about being in L.A., savoring fabulous food from around the world.

Beyond everything being gluten-free and soy-free, Anita’s food journey also means that many dietary needs are understood and catered to here. The menu clearly notes which dishes are vegan, vegetarian, egg-free, dairy-free, and nut-free.

The focus is on seasonal, non-GMO, organic, locally sourced ingredients.

The Menu

Levant Bistro menu

Choosing what to eat is going to be the biggest challenge of the night. My husband and I worked our way through the menu, choosing an item to share from each section and relying heavily on staff suggestions.

Small Bites – Mezze

We enjoyed the baba ghannoush (similar to hummus, but made with charred eggplant). It is served with either gluten-free pita or vegetables. Knowing we were opting for other carb-heavy dishes, we went with veggies. Although, there was an error and they also gave us the pita bread, which I nibbled a bit just so I could tell you how good it is.

The menu listed a popular dip sampler with hummus, baba ghannoush, and spicy labneh served with both pita and veggies. The dip sampler and a larger mezza sampler (which includes hummus, baba ghannoush, falafel, cheese sambousek, tomatoes, marinated olives & pita), looked like good choices for a larger group or if you have a good appetite. In fact, the appetizers alone are reason enough for bringing friends with you!

Okay, I said one item from each section, but we decided to indulge in two appetizers. The server told us if we came because we have to eat gluten-free (I have celiac, so yep) the garlic cheese bread was a must-try. So, try we did. The garlic cheese bread is thick and puffy, served in a tiny skillet like a mini deep dish pizza, and topped with gooey cheese, olive oil, and garlic… pretty much everything that is wonderful in the world in a small iron skillet.

The original plan was to each try a little piece of the garlic cheese bread and take the rest home to our daughter, who also has celiac disease.

Um…well…I guess, she’ll just need to come with us next time. (Don’t worry! I made it up to her with several desserts.)

If you can manage another appetizer, the grilled octopus was also recommended as a fresh and tender option. From 3-7pm you can enjoy a $3 discount on most appetizers, except for the sampler platters.

Flatbread – Manoush

Birds Eye view: flatbread topped with goat cheese, fig jam, and walnuts
Goat Cheese & Fig Jam Flatbread

Never one to pass up flatbread, I chose the goat cheese and fig jam version, which was generously topped, as the name suggests, with goat cheese and fig jam, along with candied walnuts and a pomegranate glaze. As you can imagine, it is a pretty sweet flatbread. It could be a meal on its own, and I was now pacing myself for the coming courses. So, we each tasted one slice and packed the rest to take home.

The server’s flatbread recommendations were the one we ordered, as well as the merguez sausage flatbread, with house-made sausage.


Fish on a white plate surrounded by pickled red onion, colorful tomatoes, and topped with lemon slices

The grill is the heavy lifter for the entree section of the menu. Grilled fish, grilled lamb kafta, grilled chicken, and grilled beef shawerma all caught my eye.

Once again, overwhelmed by so many good options, we took in guidance from one of the owner-brothers. The most popular dish is the kafta karaz (lamb), but my husband doesn’t care for lamb. The owner said his personal favorite is the spice-crusted chicken. He also said the branzino was incredibly fresh and a nice size for sharing, and if we were really hungry, the Labanese sofra was another excellent plate for sharing.

The Labanse sofra is a sampler platter that essentially combines four main dishes: organic chicken kabob, grass-fed beef shawerma, grass-fed lamb kafta, and falafel, served with grilled vegetables, hummus, baba ghannoush, garlic whip, tarator, pita, and rice.

Having already eyed the dessert display and finding ourselves starting to fill up from the appetizers, the fresh, grilled branzino served with tomatoes and pickled onion sounded just right to both of us, and it was.

One bite and I was transported to the fresh, grilled fish we enjoyed throughout a visit to Greece. The branzino was perfect. My husband saw the chef taking a video of this beautiful dish before delivering it to our table. I hope he got an excellent video and shared it on social media, because the presentation was stellar. My photo does not do it justice. There was plenty of fish for two with quite a bit left over. When you consider all of the wonderful appetizer options leading up to the entree, I think you could feed four people with the branzino.


Dessert display with orange cake w/ chocolate icing, carrot cakes, chocolate cakes, baklava tart, pistachio rose almond tart, fig scones, and cookies.

I was enjoying my food so much that I neglected to take a photo of the drink and dessert menu. Oops! To make up for it, here’s a pic of the dessert display.

There was a wide selection. However, when I saw the small dessert display with just a few of each item, I started to worry they would sell out of things while we ate dinner. If you frequent gluten-free bakeries, you know. But the owner assured me there were plenty more in the back.

Knafeh on a white plate, topped with crushed pistachio and rose petals, two forks on either side

Even with all of the choices, tonight’s dessert was an easy decision, knafeh, a baked sweet cheese topped with ground pistachios and rose petals. While globe-trotting in my pre-celiac days, I learned to appreciate that a seat at the table enjoying local delicacies was a window into the culture. The sweet and savory knafeh was precisely that.

We also took home a slew of treats for another day. Before we left, we had a bag packed with:

  • pistachio rose cake (I have a weakness for floral treats)
  • orange cake (a dense orange pound cake with chocolate icing)
  • hazelnut brookie (Nutella in a brownie-cookie, yum!)
  • baklava tart
  • fig scone
  • carrot cake
  • jam cookie

We may have gotten a bit carried away!


Orange beverage, back lit and glowing

Drinks run the gamut from nutella latte to Divine Science Brewery gluten-free beer. I tried and loved the mango Italian soda, which is made with pureed mango.


Levant Bistro brunch menu

On Sundays, Levant Bistro has abbreviated hours for brunch. The menu looks amazing. There are hearty dishes, such as short rib scramble and pancakes served with ashta cream, pistachios and berries. Or you can go with a lighter brunch and enjoy lentil soup or chopped kale salad packed with oranges, avocado, pistachios, red onion, goat cheese and honey dressing. Are you hungry, yet?

Bake Shop

Exterior of brick building with a wall of windows. On windows you see the words Bake Shop (in white) and 2 large, round, green circles with white text: Gluten-free.

Levant Bistro makes this list of Dedicated Gluten-Free Bakeries in LA, because it is also home to a bake shop right next door. Here, you’ll find loaves of bread, pita, baguettes, over a dozen desserts, flatbreads, coffee, tea, and more.

If the Bake Shop is already closed, just step into the bistro, where you can still buy all of the same baked goods to-go.

Levant Bistro masterfully shares real, fresh, authentically Labanese and Levantine food with the gluten-free community, and should not be missed!

This review is based on my personal dining experience. Please visit Levant Bistro’s website for up to date hours and information, and always ask questions regarding your specific dietary needs at the restaurant.

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