In preparation for our wedding in Austin, Texas last April, my husband James and I went down to Austin a couple of times to meet with wedding vendors and scope out venues. On one of these trips, we discovered the wonderful Pars Deli.
Pars turned up in an online search I did for Persian restaurants. I wanted to have our rehearsal dinner in a Persian restaurant, in honor of my Persian heritage. Alas, I didn’t find anything close enough to our hotels downtown that would be practical for our guests, but Pars, further north, had gotten such good reviews that I wanted to check it out anyway.
When we walked into the strip-mall storefront, a slight man was moving quickly behind the counter; this turned out to be Sam Roostaie, the affable owner of Pars. Behind him were shelves filled with Persian goods like rose water, Persian-style torshi pickles, and several varieties of black tea, or chai, as it’s called in Iran. The space was homey, with standard-issue wooden tables and plastic chairs, and a little decorated stage for live music in the back.
We placed our order, then distracted ourselves from hunger by studying the Persian memorabilia on the walls, like this picture of a dreamy-eyed man enjoying tea, bread, and his pipe. Is that a whole clove of garlic in the foreground?
Also hanging on the wall were these distinctive, hammered metal platters.
After a few minutes of anticipation, our food arrived. I started with a rich and flavorful ash-e reshteh soup, brimming with dill, beans, and noodles.
A Persian customer told us that we should try the zereshk polow, a brilliantly colored dish of rice decorated with sour barberries, toasted almonds and pistachios, and saffron. To go with it, I ordered fesenjan, the iconic stew of walnuts and pomegranate syrup that’s traditionally served with duck or chicken. It perfectly demonstrates the Persian palate’s yen for sour fruits paired with rich meat—and it’s spectacular with a dollop of cucumber yogurt, also known as mast-o-khiar.
James, characteristically, helped out in the effort to taste as many menu items as possible by ordering the lentil soup, chicken shawarma, and a side of Mediterranean potatoes. The dishes were fragrant and everything tasted fresh.
James always smiles broadly when he’s absolutely certain he’ll get enough to eat!
I recommend Pars, not only if you’re looking for Persian food, but if you simply want a great and inexpensive meal. I’m not the only one who thinks so. The Austin Chronicle gave Pars a rave review, and it’s consistently included on lists of Austin’s best casual eateries. In one of the country’s hottest food towns, that says a lot.
Pars Deli is located at 8820 Burnet Road, in Austin. Their phone number 512 452 2888. To see their menu and hours, visit their Facebook page.