If you’re looking for some of the most delicious chelow kabab in Tehran, look no further than Reyhoon. This restaurant, which means ‘basil’ in Persian, grills some of the best kubideh kabab and serves it alongside a plate of saffron rice and fresh, baked-in-house bread and heaps of (what else) basil. Get an unforgettable taste of this national dish in a traditional setting.
Reyhoon Restaurant, Kaj Abadi St. No. 18, Tehran, +98 21 2203 7963
Dizi Sara Restaurant
When a restaurant has only one item on the menu and people line up around the block to eat it, you know they make that one item to absolute perfection. Dizi Sara starts you off with a variety of pickled vegetables, yogurt, salad, fresh bread, and a pitcher of doogh (a yogurt drink) before delivering one dizi per person. This stew of lamb, potatoes, and legumes is cooked in a clay pot, with the liquid eaten separately. To finish, sweet, sticky bamieh and hot tea are served, to throw you right into a food coma. While enjoying this divine meal, take time to enjoy the mosaics and paintings in this traditional restaurant.
Gilaneh serves up authentic dishes from the northern part of Iran. The decoration, wooden benches and ceramic plates and bowls make for a cozy, rustic and authentic setting. Don’t miss the signature item of the north, kabab torsh—beef marinated in a pomegranate-walnut sauce, as well as special olives and mirza ghasemi, a smoked eggplant dish. With friendly staff and delicious food, this places fills up fast, so book a table in advance.
Gilaneh Restaurant, Africa Blvd, Saba Blvd, Tehran, +98 21 2205 5335
Silk Road Hotel
Tucked in the heart of Yazd’s winding alleyways, the charming Silk Road Hotel is a restored traditional house. The serene courtyard is an excellent place to stop for lunch, perhaps before or after you visit Jameh Mosque, which is just footsteps away. Although international dishes feature on the menu, we recommend trying the specialties of the city, such as shuli, a tasty vegetarian soup of white beets and celery, and the camel stew with potatoes. Follow your meal with some tea and meet a few fellow travelers as you plan your next sightseeing venture.
Traditional Banquet Hall
There are no chairs in this restaurant, but as long as you can tolerate sitting on the traditional Iranian daybeds to eat, you’ll be OK. One of the most beautiful in Esfahan, this colorful restaurant is located upstairs, just past Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, and has recreated a Qajar-style atmosphere with stained glass windows and wooden shutters. It is just as popular with locals as it is with tourists. Grab a table outside if it’s not too crowded, and then head downstairs to the tiny Cafe Espadana to enjoy a tea or coffee in the shady courtyard.
Traditional Banquet Hall, Naghsh-e-jahan Sq, Esfahan, +98 31 1221 9068
Unless you’re a vegetarian, don’t even think about leaving Esfahan without trying their famed beryani, minced lamb or mutton with spices and almond slivers cooked in a small, flat pan and served over hot flatbread. Beryani Azam, which specializes in this one dish, is where all the locals go, which is always a good sign.
Beryani Azam, Kamal Esmaeel St., Esfahan, +98 31 1212 5730
A must-stop on your walk through Kerman’s Grand Bazaar is Vakil Teahouse, a restored bathhouse. The lively ambiance, vaulted halls, and live music may turn a short stop for tea into a leisurely meal followed by some hookah. A great place to taste Kerman’s specialty dish, bozghormeh (a stew made with mutton), it’s also the best place to try the city’s famous minced date and walnut-filled cookie, kolompeh, and noodle dessert, faloodeh, which is somewhat different from its better known Shirazi counterpart.
Vakil Teahouse, Bazaar-e Ganjalikhan, Vakil Bazaar, Kerman +98 34 1222 5989
Brentin Restaurant and Bakery
Brentin is a lovely, light and airy cafe. The menu offers a mix of traditional Persian cuisine and not-so-traditional steak and pasta dishes, with a few vegetarian-friendly options. A local southern favorite includes fish or shrimp ghelyeh, a tangy stew with fried vegetables. While canned drinks aren’t available here, there’s a wide range of wonderfully imaginative beverages, like rosewater-saffron and cucumber-mint. Best visited at lunch, Brentin is quite popular with the local Shirazi crowd.
Berkeh Traditional Restaurant
This restaurant greets diners with a lovely garden and pool full of Koi fish. Berkeh, ‘pool’ in Persian, delivers friendly service, delicious food and a fantastic atmosphere. Particularly known for its fish kababs and dizi stew, served over a flame, this locale is a bit outside the city of Tabriz and may just be the perfect stop to treat yourself on the way back from a visit to the troglodytic village of Kandovan.
Berkeh Traditional Restaurant, Sardroud Beltway, Tabriz, +98 41 3420 9516