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.
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 (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 (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.
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.