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Dijlah, a Middle Eastern restaurant on Butler Street in Lawrenceville, is not BYOB.
I bring this up first because my dining companions and I were looking forward to a lively dinner full of Syrah and shawarma. But we were foiled.
When the four of us showed up with two bottles of wine and a growler of beer from nearby Roundabout Brewery -- which, admittedly, might have been a little bit excessive -- the server apologized and politely told us that alcohol cannot be consumed because the restaurant follows halal standards.
This was a disappointing development, but not a dealbreaker. We ordered waters all around, and my husband, Joshua, ordered a yogurt-based drink called Ayran ($2.50).
"This is challenging," my friend Melissa said, looking at the growler of beer sweating in the center of the table.
Our appetizers arrived quickly -- we ordered falafel ($5.50), a cheese plate of feta, cucumber and tomato ($4.99), and a combination plate of hummus, babaganush, grape leaves, tabbouleh and pita bread ($6.99). The appetizers were good -- the tabbouleh was lemony and flavorful, and the hummus was smooth. The feta was, predictably, rather briny, and we still had no water.
"The fact that we brought our drinks, and now we can't get any drinks, it's like we're being punished," Melissa said.
"Booze, booze everywhere and not a drop of water to drink," Joshua quipped.
Water and Joshua's yogurt drink arrived just ahead of our entrees. The yogurt was salty, not sweet, but Joshua liked it.
"If I'm eating feta and olives, do I really want to drink salty yogurt?" I asked after taking a sip.
"No," my friend Karamagi answered quickly.
My chicken shawarma ($10.99) was seasoned well, but the chicken was a bit dry. Joshua enjoyed his falafel wrap ($5.50), one of few vegetarian dishes on the menu. Melissa said the hot vegetarian grape leaves ($4.99) were "inconsistent" -- the filling was good, but the grape leaves themselves were dry and crumbly. Karamagi enjoyed the variety in the mix grill, consisting of chicken and kofte kebabs ($14.99).
As we spooned the leftovers into containers, we pondered what to do next, ultimately deciding to head our separate ways.
"We'll drink alone, like we normally do," Karamagi joked as he picked up a bottle of wine and headed for the door.
Dijlah's warm, cozy decor and bench seats lined with plush pillows make it an ideal spot for a romantic dinner, but service struggles and the no-booze rule means it's more likely to end up on takeout rosters than weekend-dinner rotations.
Dijlah is at 4130 Butler St., Lawrenceville; 412-224-2111.
Annie Siebert: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1613. Twitter: @AnnieSiebert.