Following the 1979 Iranian Revolution, Persians migrated from Iran to different parts of the world for various reasons, including to avoid political or religious persecution, to pursue educational opportunities, or to join their families abroad, just to name a few. With this migration, Iranians brought their customs and traditions to different parts of the world. Iranians migrated to countries such as Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States. Across the United States, Persian population centers can be found in various cities, including Los Angeles (which even has a part to it called Persian Square), San Francisco, Great Neck, Houston, Dallas, Raleigh and Durham. As a result of this mass migration, customs and traditions also followed. For example, the Persian springtime new year holiday of Nowruz is now celebrated in many cities across the world. We’ve written an entire blog post on Nowruz celebrations. Additionally, Iranian film as gained prominence in theatres across the United States, as movies in Farsi with subtitles in English can now be found all across. The Farhang Foundation has also done tremendous work to promote Persian customs and traditions, partnering with the University of Southern California to create an Iranian studies degree and partnering with the University of California Los Angeles to create an Iranian music degree.
In addition to the holidays, movies and curriculum, the Iranian migration also led to new types of grocery stores opening up throughout the country. Specifically, there are now grocery stores that cater specifically to various ethnic communities. In Los Angeles, for example, Elat Market and Glatt Market are two of the more popular grocery stores that carry Persian specialty items. In fact, we previously talked about the five most unique ingredients found in Persian food, from sun dried lime, also known as limoo omani, to sour cherry, also known as albaloo. Many of these ingredients can only be found at these types of grocery stores. The availability of these grocery stores and distributors that carry these products in these areas allowed one of the Iranian Revolution’s greatest positive impacts to flourish: a wider scale availability of Persian food. Prior to the Revolution and prior to the Iranian people’s migration to countries such as the United States, Canada and the UK, Persian food was not as readily available. Even today it’s not tremendously well known, more so only enjoyed in communities with significant Persian populations. Given Los Angeles’ huge Persian population (the largest outside of Iran), we previously talked about the best Persian restaurants in Los Angeles.
However, the Bay Area in San Francisco has a sizable Persian population as well. Consequently, Persian restaurants have flourished in the area, restaurants that serve some of the finest Persian food outside of Los Angeles. While we’ll always be partial to Baaz Bites’ crispy tadig cups topped with delicious vegetarian Persian stews, the following is our list of the top 5 Persian food restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area:
Number 1: Shalizaar Restaurant
Shalizaar Restaurant is a Persian restaurant located in Belmont, California. The restaurant serves a wide array of Persian food, from the classic stews such as fesenjan, gheymeh and ghormeh sabzi, to the various Persian rice dishes such as sabzi polo, shirin polo and zereshk polo. In addition to their Persian stews and rices, they also serve different types of kabobs, including barg, joojeh, and koobideh, the three most popular types of Persian kabobs. As we explained in our blog post on the five most popular Persian beverages, doogh, or fizzy, bubbly yogurt, is often paired with these traditional Persian meals, and is the perfect complementary drink for a delicious Persian meal.
Number 2: Maykadeh Restaurant
Maykadeh is a Persian restaurant in the heart of San Francisco itself. While Persian restaurants in Northern California are generally located in the South Bay, closer to the immigrant population pockets, Maykadeh finds itself situated in the heart of the city. The restaurant first opened its doors in North Beach in 1983. Like Shalizaar, Maykadeh offers a wide array of Persian stews. In addition to the three most famous ones (ghormeh sabzi, gheymeh and fesenjan), Maykadeh also offers Persian classics such as khoresht bademjan, or an eggplant and tomato paste based stew. In addition to the main course dishes, Maykadeh also offers a range of various Persian side dishes, such as Shirazi Salad, a diced tomato, Persian cucumber and onion salad drizzled with lemon juice and olive oil, as well as mast-o-khiar, or a yogurt and cucumber side dish that pairs incredibly well with Persian lavash bread.
Number 3: Stone Stew
Stone Stew is a Persian restaurant located in San Jose, California. Stone stew offers one of the most sought after Persian restaurant menu items: tahdig with half and half stew. The base of the dish is a thin sheet of tahdig. It is then topped with one Persian stew or with two different ones (if you go with the half and half version). The most popular stews with which tahdig is topped with is usually ghormeh sabzi, gheymeh or fesenjan. However, Persian restaurants may not always have this dish available, so it may be wise to call ahead. As previously discussed, the process of making tahdig is a time intensive one. You usually have to go through the process of making an entire pot of rice just to get one thin layer of crispy rice. As such, it comes out in limited quantities. This is what inspired Baaz Bites’ creation. We wanted to ensure tahdig was consistently available to all, and something that could be enjoyed by all as opposed to fought over at the dinner table.
Number 4: Chelokababi
The name says it all. Chelokababi, a Persian restaurant located in Sunnyvale, California, focuses on kabob, or Persian meat skewers. Whether it’s joojeh kabob, koobideh, or barg, Chelokababi has it all. The great thing is that this restaurant prepares kabob over a charcoal grill, allowing the meat to maintain its juiciness and tenderness while absorbing just the perfect amount of heat. Additionally, given the “chelo” portion in front of kabob in the restaurant name, you’d expect each order to come with a plate of Persian basmati rice. And it does! Each kabob dish is served with a place of Persian saffron basmati rice. In addition to the rice, a traditional side dish of kabob are barbecued vegetables. While Persian restaurants like to get them burnt on the outside, the barbecued tomatoes actually come out quite juicy. If you’re craving kabob instead of the classic Persian rice and stew dish, then Chelokababi may be the place for you.
Number 5: Ziba Persian Cuisine
In Farsi, ziba means pretty or beautiful. Many of Ziba’s dishes can be described as just that. Whether it’s the various basmati rice-based Persian dishes the restaurant offers, including zereshk polo and baghali polo, to the Persian stews, including gheymeh, ghormeh sabzi and fesenjan, Ziba has got it all. Best part is an order of the Persian tea comes with unlimited refills!
While Persian restaurants have been a great way for individuals to explore Persian cuisine following Iranians’ mass migration to the United States, these restaurants have stuck to old-school ways of serving Persian food. Baaz Bites represents the first and only modern take on traditional Persian food, sticking with the authenticity of age-old recipes, but giving them a twist. As a result, Baaz Bites are the perfect finger food for appetizers during a book club, housewarming party or birthday party. If you’re looking to serve Persian food at your next party, but want to move away from the traditional catering offerings of the restaurants, then Baaz Bites is just for you!