Finding this ice cream shop is a challenge, but one that’s well worth it once you arrive. Set in the back streets of Achrafieh St. Nicholas, look for an old, faded sign with a logo reminiscent of a popular soft drink, above a tiny, one-room corner shop which is otherwise unmarked.
I like Hanna Mitri because contrary to much of the shiny, new Beirut, which is all about appearances, this place is old and unchanged, and it’s all about the ice cream. There are no seats and it’s a no-frills service. The family-owned ice cream business has existed since 1949, and legend has it that it never closed, even while bombs were falling during the civil war. The ice cream is still all made on the spot daily.
There are usually around eight flavours of ice cream and sorbet available, plus some specials depending on what’s in season. If you’re in luck, you might find mulberry, watermelon or mango. My favourites are the rose water sorbet and amareddine (apricot paste sorbet filled with crunchy pine nuts). Hanna Mitri is renowned for its milk ice cream, and there are also plenty of classics such as strawberry, lemon, dark chocolate and pistachio. Everything is made from fresh ingredients without colourants or additives.
The ice cream is served, without a smile, in thin, rectangular old-fashioned wafer cones. As one online review reads: it’s the only place in Lebanon where you see people line up and wait to be served.