Iran is known for its array of flavorful dishes served in portions large enough to feed a small army. From super posh haute cuisine to dives delivering regional favorites, Tehran has something for everyone’s budget. Check out some of the best cheap eats the capital city has to offer.
Golpâygâni, better known as Haj Asghar to his regulars, is selective about his meat, using only the best quality to serve up some of the most divine kebabs in town. There is nothing remotely fancy about this place—just good food done right. Try the kubideh (ground beef) kebab, and you’ll receive a standard two skewers between fresh flatbread, along with heaps of basil and other herbs. Rice is available, but most people who come here come for the noon dâgh, kebab dâgh [hot bread, hot kebab].
Khoshbin, more commonly known as Hassan Rashti, is a tiny restaurant packed with locals who come for a traditional Gilaki lunch (from the northern Gilan region). Alongside various kebabs are mirzâ ghâsemi (smoked eggplant, garlic, tomato, and egg), bâghlâ ghâtogh (lima beans with egg), and zeytun parvardeh (olives marinated in pomegranate paste, garlic, and crushed walnuts), typical favorites of the north. An in-and-out style here means fast table turnover, but it’s the best place to try a taste of the north while exploring southern Tehran.
Haida is one of the most famous fast-food chains in Tehran and prides itself on preparing all of its menu items using only natural and organic ingredients. Pizza plus hot and cold sandwiches are what you’ll find here, but it’s probably best known for its hot dogs (which resemble giant sausages). With currently 21 branches in the greater Tehran area, Haida definitely gives you your money’s worth with their oversize portions.
Talaei Sandwich is an Armenian deli that sells both sliced deli meats and cheeses as well as heavenly warm sandwiches, and they proudly announce that they have no other branches elsewhere. Try the tongue sandwich or their signature sausage sandwich to go or indulge right there where there’s standing room for about three or four people only. Don’t miss the photo of Imam Khomeini and an Armenian Orthodox priest on the wall, and be aware that they tend to close as soon as they’ve sold their last sandwich for the evening, which might be earlier than their stated hours.
Crowds pack in at Khanlari for their delicious sandwiches and a taste of nostalgia as well. Best known for their bandari sandwiches, sliced spicy sausages fried up with a tomato sauce, and falafel sandwiches, you can also try samosas, typical street food of the south, and soft drinks in old-school glass bottles. Located in Tajrish Square, this is a perfect place to grab a bite on the run and chat up some locals.
Just off of Naser Khosrow Street, the oldest street in Tehran, are the narrow alleys of the Marvi Bazaar. After walking through the arched brick porticos, you can refuel at Marvi Falafel, one of the best falafel joints in town that offers a taste of old Tehran in old Tehran. Their recipe is different and arguably tastier than those found at other kiosks. Enjoy some street food while watching the goings-on of everyday bazaar life.
The line stretching around the bazaar to get into Moslem is a good sign yet intimidating. Luckily though, it moves quickly, and soon you’ll be inside taking in the mouthwatering smells of grilled kebabs, stews, and the famous tachin, a kind of rice cake with chicken. Consider sharing your dish as the portions may as well be made for two, and grab the first empty seat you see. The chaotic atmosphere here is not everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s surely charming for a one-time experience.
Sharaf AlEslami, another institution in the bazaar area, is similar to Moslem, but somewhat less hectic and more enjoyable with no-frills décor, meaning the food does the talking. This nearly 100-year-old restaurant serves various traditional Iranian stews and kebabs, and what many say is the best tachin rice cake in town. You’ll want to share your meal not just because of the hearty portions but also to share the experience of the unforgettable melody of flavors.