Tiba’s Restaurant – or simply Tibas, as so many know it – has been treating the hungry of Melbourne, to generous, delicious, budget-friendly, Lebanese dishes since 1983.
Location: 504-508 Sydney Rd, Brunswick, VIC 3056 Ph: (03) 9380 8425 Also at 55-57 Lygon St, East Brunswick, VIC 3057 Ph: (03) 9387 0066 & 4/195 Somerton Rd, Roxburgh Park, VIC 3064 Ph: (03) 9303 9902
On their website, Tibas say that they are home to ‘Melbourne’s Favourite Authentic Lebanese Cuisine.’ It might seem like a bold claim, but when you are still packing in diners after 40 years, you’ve got to be doing something right.
Since Hassan and his son Mohamed first opened up in 1983, little has changed at the iconic Brunswick restaurant. The dining room is still rammed with couples, groups of friends and large family groups, the noise levels are still high and the food is still plentiful and true to its origins.
Many of the current customers first came to Tibas with their parents or with a mass of raucous cousins. Similarly, you suspect that many of the younger, impressively efficient, waiters are second generation Tibas staff. But part of the appeal of this buzzing place is that whilst the faces may change, the welcoming ambience and great food continues.
These days, Tiba’s Restaurant is in the hands of 3 brothers – Hassan, Salem & Mohamed – under the careful guidance of their mother Hoda. And the reach of their wonderful Lebanese food has expanded to include a further establishment in Lygon Street, Brunswick east and Roxburgh Park.
Whichever Tiba’s you frequent, we recommend you arrive with an empty stomach!
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Whilst Eatability is sure that the other 2 branches of restaurant are equally good, we are partial to the charms of Tibas Brunswick.
The eatery is easy to spot on Sydney Road thanks to its distinctive black, gold, green & red livery and the Tiba’s name emblazoned over the image of a Lebanese cedar tree. Usually, there are a few patrons sat eating at metal tables outside, whatever the weather.
If you head in, you’re immediately thrust into the babble and swirling energy of a very busy eatery.
There’s a take away counter stacked with vibrant salads to the right and chefs toiling over open flames as they char Flintstone-sized spits of meat. Ahead of you, there’s the stark lighting and hubbub of a lively casual restaurant.
If you love grilled food, we’ve got something for you. Whether you are looking for a Portable Charcoal Grill, an Indoor/Outdoor Barbeque, or a Japanese Style Hibachi, we’ve got you covered.
Almost as soon as you cross the threshold of Tiba’s Restaurant, someone invariably greets you and checks if you have a reservation. Luckily for many, even if you haven’t called ahead, the team will always do their best to squash you in somewhere.
Over in the city, one of our favourite places for a nourishing, cheap dinner is the set menu at Straight Outta Saigon
The main dining area is to the left, through a series of arches. For years, this space was a simple room with bare brick walls. More recently, however, those bricks have been painted white and I’ve got to say we like it. The space seems bigger, more open and altogether cheerier. The lighting has also had a bit of a facelift with attractive, arabesque pendant lamps hanging from a newly darkened ceiling.
But don’t fret if you’re a fan of the more humble decor of the Tibas of old – the tables and chairs look the same and the vibe is still a hard-to-replicate mix of relaxed, yet hectic.
Crowd-pleasing Lebanese fare served with generosity. And everything is halal, naturally.
Best of all – Tibas is a cheap eats heaven.
There are a number of ways to fill up.
You can go a la carte and work your way through the numerous sections of the menu. Alternatively, if you’re truly ravenous, there are a number of Set Menus which include a selection of dishes, plus a Dessert and a Bottled Soft Drink.
Or you can go simply for a Main Course, which actually comes with Garden Salad, Tabouli, Pickled Turnips, Yoghurt & Cucumber Dip, Hommos Dip & Rice.
Nope, there’s no fear of leaving Tiba’s Restaurant with an empty stomach.
We decide to go for Mains, plus a couple of extras.
Dips & Salads
Despite the fact that all Mains arrive with a dollop of creamy Hommos ($6.40/$8.60), we plump for extra. Because it’s always fantastic.
Eatability also has a passion for Babaganouge and the version at Tiba’s is fabulously smoky. The same goes for the parsley-packed Tabouli Salad ($6.40/$8.60) which is lip-puckeringly spiky with lemon juice.
After dining like a King at Tiba’s, head round the corner for hand-crafted Ice Cream from Luther’s Scoops
We consider going mix ‘n’ match from the a la carte, but when the Mains come with so many extras, it seems like a waste. Similarly, there’s a brief flirtation with the Set Menus.
Tiba’s House ($35) almost gets a vote. This beast of an offering covers 2 platefuls. The first, Garden, Tabouli, & Chickpea Salads, Yogurt & Cucumber, Hommos, & Babaganouge Dips, Falafels, Vine Leave, Lebanese Pizza & Spinach Pie. The second platter ramps up the protein with Lamb & Chicken Shawarma, Lamb Cutlet, Shish Kafta & Sausage, along with Rice.
In the end, the Mains win out.
The Mixed Shawarma ($24) has mildly spiced pieces of crispy-edged Lamb and pleasingly moist slices of Chicken. When added to the abundance of Dips and Sides, it’s a big plate of food.
Next up, the Shish Chicken ($22.50) is all the usual extras as well as 2 Skewers of beautifully Char-Grilled Chicken.
Again, the Chicken pieces are perfectly cooked through, yet not at all dry.
If you want to prepare fruit and vegetables quickly for super-speedy salads and more, check out these easy-to-use Mandoline Vegetable Choppers & Slicers
Lastly, we can’t resist the Lamb Cutlets ($28). And we’re really glad we order them as they are a real stand-out in terms of flavour. Flame-licked and tender, they taste fantastic and melt in the mouth.
Although we have mountains of delicious food to work our way through, we decide to push the boat out and also grab a Bowl of Chips ($7). Even these turn out to be particularly fine and we devour them. We nearly double up with the Fried Cauliflower ($8), which we know from experiences is addictive when dipped in its accompanying Tahini Sauce. However, restraint prevails – which is just as well given that we only just manage to finish off everything on the table.
The Lebanese Sweet part of the menu is small, but fittingly sugary.
The Rice Pudding ($5) is bliss and we love the Baclawa ($8) which Tiba’s does as 5 different types.
If you ever find yourself nearby and in need of a pick-me-up, the kitchen also sells boxes of Baclawa, Turkish Delight and more at the front counter.
Tiba’s Roxburgh Park
Finally, the menu at the Roxburgh Park restaurant is slightly larger and includes both Bakery items and Breakfasts.
From the Bakery, the Lahme Baagin ($4) – a Puff Pastry with Minced Meat & Pine Nuts is our go-to. Meanwhile, from the Breakfast selection, the Eggs with Sujuk ($12) is both filling and flavoursome.
As in keeping with strict Muslim beliefs, there is no alcohol at Tiba’s.
Instead, there are all the usual Soft Drinks, plus a few more interesting option. The latter includes an Ayran Yogurt Drink and a number of alcohol-free fruit flavoured Beers.
For the hot beverage fans, the Peppermint Tea, Cinnamon Tea and Lebanese Coffee are all good.
Thank goodness for Tiba’s Restaurant.
As the world continues to change – and not necessarily for the better – you can rely on Tibas for enormous platters of vibrant, tasty food that doesn’t cost the earth.
But more than that, you get to dine in an eatery that thrums with life and where the amiable staff will also endeavour to find a space for you.