Anita Khalek, owner of Levant in Echo Park, says she had to reset her diet after having her second child; seemingly out of the blue, her health was deteriorating. After a lengthy doctor’s appointment, it seemed like the consensus was this: what she was eating could be adversely affecting her health. Following an elimination diet that started with a 15-ingredient list, she began to determine what she could ingest, wedding the process to her childhood spent in the mountains of Lebanon and the dishes she loved from that period of her life.
As her health improved, Khalek blogged about her journey and the dishes she made for herself in dozens of posts. Now, she’s opened a permanent home for all those recipes at her bistro and bakery at 2112 W Sunset Boulevard — the goal being to give those with food sensitivities a destination serving allergen-friendly Levantine cuisine. “We are a dedicated gluten-free and soy-free restaurant and bakery,” Khalek says. “The goal is to serve the community that needs to eat this way. And the community at large.”
The bistro arm of Levant, which serves lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch, opened its doors in mid-August, but Tuesday, September 13 was the kick-off for Khalek’s bakery. On the restaurant side, options run the gamut from man’oush (a variety of flatbreads topped with goat cheese and fig jam, merguez sausage, and more) to seared seabass, to sandwiches (served on gluten-free pita) to vegan labneh to tabouli. Entrees are served with sides like turmeric vegetable soup and Lebanese rice. For Sunday brunch, brioche and almond pancakes are staples. All the menu items are marked to indicate if they’re vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, or egg-free.
The list of sweet to-go items, meanwhile, is long: cinnamon rolls, muffins, sesame rolls, scones, cakes, and cookies are all on deck. Khalek’s top choice is between her clementine cakes and her almond tea cakes, which are forthcoming. She and her team make gluten-free dough, mostly comprised of rice flour and potato starch with the occasional addition of millet flour, in-house.
As the business builds up its base, Khalek is looking ahead to catering opportunities and private events. Coffee and tea are already available for morning customers, but a beer and wine license is inbound any day for nighttime guests — in the spirit of wellness, Khalek is excited to offer natural and organic wines. “We don’t want to exclude anybody. But we really want to offer the gluten-free community a place that is safe to eat without cross-contamination,” Khalek says.
Levant is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday brunch is served from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.