2012 City Guide: Austin Persian Fare

As an Iranian-American I grew up eating some of the most delicious food in the world. A little biased, I know, but once you have perfectly steamed buttery basmati rice with a slow-cooked khoresht lovingly ladled on top, or hot off the grill sizzling lamb kabob in fresh baked pita bread, or a scoop of creamy saffron-pistachio-rose water ice cream you’ll understand what I mean.

To be honest, I almost always prefer to have home-cooked Persian food. There’s a comfort in making family recipes and having the memories of childhood come alive with each bite. However, most Iranian recipes are fairly time consuming and dining out is a good way to get my fix when I’m just dying for some kabob or ghormeh sabzi or albaloo pollow. Luckily, Austin has some great Persian restaurants and one fantastic bakery that specializes in traditional sweets.

Dream Bakery

The only bakery in Austin that has fresh baked Persian treats is Dream Bakery (9422 Anderson Mill Road Suite B. Austin Texas 78729). Owner Azar Owlia and team make traditional cookies, cakes, pastries, and ice cream. My father, who is a tough sell, said they took him back home with every bite. In additional to Persian sweets they make traditional French pastries, fantastic kolaches, perfect cookies, and cakes of all shapes, sizes, and tastes. The wedding and party cakes are simply beautiful and tasty; in fact I get my birthday roulette cake from them every year. Below is a selection of some of Dream Bakery’s delicious offerings. 

Traditional Persian chickpea cookies and rice cookies.

Yummy chewy Persian walnut cookies. (My favorite)

Norooz Cookie Tray (Persian New Year)

Variety of Persian and French sweets.

Shandeez Grill

Shandeez Grill (8863 Anderson Mill Rd. Ste 109, Austin, TX 78798) is as traditional of an Iranian restaurant as you’ll find. They have slow cooked khoreshts (stews) serve over fluffy steamed rice, delicious grilled meats, and some yummy snacks I usually only have at home. My favorite is the tahdig topped with khoreshte ghormeh sabzi (shown below). Tadig is the crispy fried bottom part of the rice. It is soooo delicious. They top it with delicious ghormeh sabzi, stewed greens, beef, dried lemon, and beans. My dad always called this Iranian pizza when I was a kid, and I was happy to see this on their menu. The khoreshte fesenjoon, a beef, walnut, and pomegranate stew is really good. I recommend getting an order of mahsto khiar, yogurt and cucumber dip. You can eat it with everything or dip your bread in it. Yogurt is like the ketchup of Iranian food. 

Pars Deli

Pars Deli (8820 Burnet Rd Suite 502, Austin, TX 78757 ) is the casual dining option for Persian food here in town. They do grilled meat really well. I recommend the koobideh kabob (ground beef and/or lamb) either with pita bread or rice. The meat is always flavorful and juicy. My mouth is watering thinking of the kabob at Pars. The shaker of ground maroon spice you see on the table is sumac. It is a sour spice that makes the kabob even better. Try it, you’ll like it.

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Alborz Persian Cuisine

Alborz Persian Cuisine (3300 W Anderson Lane #300, Austin, Texas 78757) is also a traditional spot here for Iranian food. They have a great lunch buffet that lets you try a variety of Persian fare from appetizers to desserts. The bread is baked fresh and they bring sabzi and feta out with the bread to your table. Sabzi is a variety of greens: parsley, mint, basil, green onion and radishes. Must try at Alborz: joojeh kabob (chicken), chelo kabob-e barg (steak), zereshk pollow (barberry and saffron rice), and the albaloo pollow (sour cherry rice). If you go with a group of four or more for dinner I would suggest getting the family plate so you can try a variety. 

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Nooshe Jan!



Austin 2012 City Guide: Northside Vegetarian

Me and my fellow foodies of the Austin Food Blogger Alliance are putting together the 2012 City Guide of all our favorite places in Austin. This is my first time contributing and I’m excited to share some of my favorite bites. Be on the lookout for my upcoming post on the Austin Persian food scene in the next few days.

I’m not a vegetarian. I tried to become one a few years ago and quickly realized that I do really enjoy meat from time to time. However, I am pretty conscious about from where my meat comes so I often choose a vegetarian option when dining out. I’m usually dining with those who think that every meal must include meat, so I appreciate restaurants that have a wide variety of options for all tastes. Here are a few I recommend.

The Steeping Room

My favorite is The Steeping Room (11410 Century Oaks Terrace, Ste. 112, Austin, TX 78758). This little cafe tucked in the Domain has something for everyone. From vegetarian to carnivore to vegan to gluten-free, any preferences or dietary restrictions can be accommodated deliciously. Plus they have a large selection of loose tea and some of the best desserts in Austin. Try their Deep Chocolate Caramel Cake and be prepared to share. It’s sinfully good. Beyond the wonderful food, the service at The Steeping Room always surpasses most restaurants in Austin. The waitstaff are friendly, knowledgeable, and attentive. There is always a manager around making sure things run smoothly. The decor is calm and bright and the staff carry that through your experience. 

Here are a few of my favorite vegetarian dishes they have:
You must start with some tea.     

If they have tomato coconut soup available get it, trust me on this.

The Mediterranean platter. Great as an appetizer, snack, or meal.

Goat cheese, arugula, and olive tapenade tea sandwiches with a cashew caesar salad. This is my favorite caesar salad in Austin and guess what? It’s vegan!

My usual: Grilled seasonal veggie sandwich with goat cheese spread on ciabatta, with the cashew caesar, of course.

Photos courtesy of Sara Nezamabadi

Bombay Bistro

Bombay Bistro (10710 Research Blvd #126, Austin, TX 78759) is my favorite Indian Restaurant on the northside. It’s in the HEB shopping center on the southeast corner of Braker and 183. I usually go for the lunch buffet where you get a lot of really good food for not a whole lot ($8.95). Service has always been great. I have to say I love their raita on everything. The naan is both crispy and chewy and is fresh. The saag paneer has a wonderful creaminess and is a popular item. I really like the aloo gobhi and the Shabnam curry with lots of mushrooms and green peas. They use good basmati rice and cook it properly. As a rice snob, I’m super picky about this and appreciate restaurants who take their rice seriously. When you leave they have candied fennel seeds instead of mints; a little touch that seals the deal on a great meal.

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Tino’s Greek Cafe

Greek food is akin to traditional southern comfort food to me. It makes me happy. I recently tried Tino’s Greek Cafe (6 locations, 4 in north Austin) and was pleasantly surprised. There’s not a lot of Greek options in town, especially good ones, and Tino’s is good. They had a wide variety of traditional Greek fare and good amount of vegetarian options. I went for lunch and had the vegetarian platter with dolmathes, tzadziki, spanakopita, moussaka, and falafel. The dolmathes and falafel dipped in the tzadziki was my favorite part. I liked the moussaka, but it didn’t blow me away and the spanakopita could have used a bit more seasoning, but overall it was a great lunch, especially for $6.99. For the carnivores, the gyro meat was really good and I might have to go back and get the gyro next time.

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Happy eating!