Nominate: Best Pakistani Food Outside Pakistan

Posted on July 1, 2006
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Food, Pakistanis Abroad, Society
Total Views: 52294


Adil Najam

Note: Updated post, with reader suggestions for Pakistani Restaurants, here.

I will be in Chicago next week. As a Pakistani in America, the first thought that comes to my mind when I think of Chicago, is Devon Avenue; or ‘Dewan Street’ to us desi types. How can you not be intrigued by a street one part of which is called Mohammed Ali Jinnah Way, another is called Gandhi Marg, and yet another is known as Golda Meier Boulevard! Notwithstanding the sociological and political nuances of the multi-ethnic immigrant community that lives and works in and around Devon Avenue, for me the real significance of Devon Street is the food. Good food. Some would say great food.

My friends in Chicago insist that the very best Pakistani food to be found outside of Pakistan is to be found at ‘Dewan Street’. Some swear by Sabri Nihari, others prefer Usmania. Of course, my friends in Houston disagree; at least one of them believes that La Sani deserves the title. Those from New York will just laugh it off and rant out their own long list, and Shaheen Food and Sweets will nearly always be on that list. On the West Coast of the US, you have Shahnawaz both in Los Angeles and in the Bay Area. Another common favourite is the inconspicuously titled Food Factory in the Washington DC area which is Afghani-Pakistani and serves great freshly baked naans.

But this is just in USA. Tokyo is rich in Pakistani restaurants, including the Gandhara and Toronto has its own ‘little Pakistan’ with a street full of authentic Pakistani eateries. London, I would not even hazard a guess on because of its amazingly rich culinary offerings. I remember having some of the best seikh kabab’s I have ever had in Copenhagen, great nihari in Cardiff, rass malai in Cape Town kulfi in Vienna and, yes, pullao in Brasilia.

I am guessing I have already offended many readers by either mentioning what they consider the wrong choice, or not mentioning what they would consider the right choice. After all, the only thing that Pakistanis get more passionate about than politics, is food. Except, we tend never to compromise on the latter.

In that very spirit, lets hear from you about where you think we can get the BEST PAKISTANI FOOD OUTSIDE OF PAKISTAN?

Tell ATP your favourite Pakistani restaurants outside of Pakistan. If you live outside Pakistan, what are the best Pakistani restaurants in your area?

Do send us your favourites and nominations and we will start compiling a list and maybe put it up for permanent display somewhere on ATP.

Readers in Pakistan, we apologize; with you we cannot even compete!

30 Comments on “Nominate: Best Pakistani Food Outside Pakistan”

  1. Altamash Mir says:
    July 1st, 2006 1:11 am

    Wel…First of all, If you are coming to Chicago, then you have to come and spend an evening with us..I’m assuming that you are coming for the APPNA convention ?
    Now as far as the restaurants are concerned, we have tried every single one, and I mean Every single one !!! and Ive got a tummy to show for it too !!! After living in NYC for 10 yrs I can safely say that no restaurant in the entire NYC Area can come close to the quality and service of the new Usmania on Devon ofcourse, or what us desi types like to call “Diwaan”. I’ll give you a quick run down of the Chicago restaurants:

    Best Nihari: Sabri Nihari/Usmania.
    Best Paya: Usmania, hands down.
    Best Chargha: Lahore Grill (Off Devon, on Western)
    Best Biryani: Usmania
    Best Kabobs: Usmania…….

    Best Sweets: Tahoora…If you havent had Tahooras Laddus or any other Mithai, then you havent had mithai in the US yet !!!

  2. Altamash Mir says:
    July 1st, 2006 1:14 am

    You know, I must rephrase some of the things I said here or add:

    Best Bihari Kabobs in the US : Al-Markaz in Richardson, TX (North Suburb of Dallas)
    Best Seekh Kabobs : Definitely Kabob King in Jackson Heights, NY

  3. July 1st, 2006 1:40 am

    Haven’t found the kind of Gulab jamuns I love from Gulshhan-iqbal Karachi sweet meat marts, anywhere in the US. They simply taste funny here, somehow, reminding me of the Gulab jamuns my sister once tried to make at home.
    On th ebest restaurants, hands down Sabri for Nehari. For a very short while there was a Maharaja Restaurant in Boston/Cambridge and they had great Nehari and Chicken Karahi. Alas, they are no more.

  4. Haider Farooq says:
    July 1st, 2006 2:19 pm

    Any list of good Pakistani food outside Pakistan should include Lasani in Toronto.

  5. Tahir says:
    July 1st, 2006 3:53 pm

    Shalimar offers the best Pakistani food in the Bay Area.

  6. Omsan says:
    July 2nd, 2006 3:45 am

    There was a verz good Pakistani resturaunt in Singapore when I last visited…. I think it was called Shalimar, but not sure….

  7. Franz says:
    July 2nd, 2006 3:21 pm

    Who needs Zagat when there’s the Najam Rating? I’ll be in the windy city as well…Tuesday I think. I’ll stop in at one of these on Devon. Madison has Chautara on State St (Nepali not Pakistani…but I probably wouldn’t know the difference..) Playing the strange social recluse in the corner of a pizza place during the lunch rush right now, chapters of Civic Entrepreneurship spread around. If you find yourself without sufficient means of amusement in chicago, I’ll be checking my email..

  8. Phil says:
    July 3rd, 2006 2:53 am

    Anyone tried the ‘The Pakistani Cusine’ on 9th Ave. Manhattan? I think it comes second to Food Factory in DC.

  9. Suleman says:
    July 5th, 2006 11:34 am

    I believe I’ll have to agree with Tahir all the way. I’ve eaten in all desi places in the Northeast and then tried West coast. Shalimar chicken tikka wins hands down in San Francisco.

    If you like grill food that is the place to go, not the best decor, but GREAT food.

    Boston blows in desi food, and NJ/NYC is hyped more then the food quality. Indeed Kebab king used to be good, but nothing compared to Shalimar, more lasted on Kebab King is their cook ran away so the quality is no longer there.

    As for Chicago, for Nihari Sabri is ok, but for grilled cooked I won’t recommend Sabri at all like I said most of these places have hype, but not great taste. I haven’t tried Usmania, as Altmatash said, but tried a few others on Devon and although they do a good job in using the same names back home, but their quality stinks. Sorry.

    As for DC food factory used to be good like 12 years ago now, it is just another joint. Ravi Kebab in VA had great chicken karahi , but it varies nowadays depending on the cook.

    In Summary, Shalimar in San Francisco wins hands down ! NJ sucks with no real desi food, (and NOOOOOOOO indian food is not Paki food ), Boston really sucks further with all paki community no Paki can put a good kebab joint, Maharaja won’t qualify for me. Sorry. NYC Kebab King is not up to par, there is one I haven’t tried in Jackson Heights I hear which has true desi machi (fish) which is Roti Boti in their new locaton not too far from Kebab King.

  10. Suleman says:
    July 5th, 2006 11:36 am

    Oh for gulub jamun I agree Tahura is great, great decor and cleansiness highly recommend in Chicagon on DEVON. ONly thing I recommend from Devon rest is hype.

  11. July 8th, 2006 12:43 am

    Greetings from Chicago…. sorry to have missed you, Altamash….. just went to Tahoora and tried their kulfi and also their barfi…. to die for….. really, really good… was all I had heard of and more…..

  12. Nighat Loya says:
    July 12th, 2006 9:26 am

    Yes Tahoora’s gulab jamun’s and Sabri’s Nihari on Devon in Chicago are pretty good..,,however having spent 10 years in Illinois..I recently moved to Texas and …..If you want great Nihari try the Brain Nihari from Bar B Q Tonite in Carrollton, Texas. You’ll want to actually go and kiss the hands of the person who made it. Its out of this world. Also gulab jamuns and any other sweets from Royal Sweets in Carrollton texas are amazing also. Carrollton is a suburb of Dallas Texas. I was a fan of Tahoora’s falooda for the longest time..however the falooda and Dhoraji style gola ‘s at Agha’s Juice in Carrollton are better than the original golas from dhoraji in karachi..mmmmmmm!!!!

  13. ದೀರೇಂದೠsays:
    July 12th, 2006 4:37 pm

    Have you tasted Masala Dose in Saravana Bhavan or udupi restaurant in Atlanta
    or South Indian tali in Swagath in NJ

  14. HJ says:
    July 13th, 2006 12:13 am

    In Kuala Lumpur there is a small dhaaba called Pakeeza off Federal Highway in Petaling Jaya – worth a shot. The Lahori chef there will cook things “desi style” if you ask him to and will even do paaya and nehari on request in advance. In Singapore, several Pakistani-owned joints masquerade as Indian joints (sorry, but ‘Pakistani food’ just doesn’t have the brand value). One that I like in particular is called Saffron in Clark Quay owned by a wonderful lady of Pakistani origin. The food is a bit fusion so the traditionalists among us may not like it. Incidentally, there is another Saffron in Kuala Lumpur, which has the best “Lahori-style,” home-cooked style desi food I have ever eaten overseas (the tarka yellow daal is to die for, the bhindi is fresh and crispy and the chappati is fresh off the tawa). It is owned and operated by another wonderful lady – from the Indian side Punjab.

  15. AR Rafiq says:
    July 13th, 2006 12:19 am

    In the San Francisco Bay Area I nominate, Shalimar ( , Mirch Cafe (This is in fremont, California).

  16. FS says:
    July 13th, 2006 10:18 am

    I’m a bit late on this thread, but Chicago may very well have the bragging rights in the USA where it comes to Pakistani food. I live in New York, and it pains me to say that there’s no good Pakistani food to be had here at all.
    The reason: there are no Pakistani cooks left in New York. No joke. Most cooks at desi restaurants in New York are either Bangladeshi or…gasp…Mexican. Nothing against either of these communities, of course, but their just not Pakistani.
    As a result all Pakistani fare in New York is about how much more masala one can add to the mix. Seekh Kebabs here are massive, often fatter than bratwursts but hollow inside of course. They bear no resemblance to the variety you get anywhere in Pakistan.
    Chicago, on the other hand, does have Pakistani chefs and hence you get a thinner, less heavily spiced, more authentic seekh kebab. I assume the same is true for Houston & Toronto but I haven’t been to either.
    Not sure if they are still open, but I recall Ghaseetah Khan was a good choice for late, late dining on Devon Ave.

  17. Sadia says:
    July 13th, 2006 10:21 pm

    I would have to say Ravi Kabob although located in Northern VA, has the market cornered in the DC area for the best karhai chicken and chapli kabob. Hands down.

  18. DT says:
    July 21st, 2006 3:52 am

    I’m Indian American (Punjabi), but did not enjoy any Desi restaurants in London. They were horrible. Of course this is Pakistani restaurants, but if its the same, I would guess Pakistani cuisine sucks in London too. Bangladeshi chefs mixing their own masalsas and stuff, and gasp.. coconut pieces in Chicken Makhni. South Indians also try to cook the food and mess it up (no offense to anyone).

    Houston has some good desi restaurants, but lots of restaurants also have South Indians or Gujuratis try to cook, and it doesn’t turn out quite right. People don’t realize the great restaurants in Texas, probably up there or better than NYC.

  19. Salim Chowdhrey says:
    July 21st, 2006 10:08 pm

    Sallo’s owned by Salahuddin family of foormer Sallo’s in WAPDA Building Lahore was one of the best meals I’ve ever had. And I grew
    in Karachi.

  20. Salim Chowdhrey says:
    July 22nd, 2006 12:29 am

    I am sorry I didn’t mention it. It is in London at KNIGHTSBRIDGE.

  21. Gohar S Qureshi says:
    July 27th, 2006 9:05 am

    Ravi kabab in VA has the best checken and kabab karahi.

  22. August 3rd, 2006 11:08 am

    If you are every in New York, you have to go eat at Agra. Its located at East 63rd Street and Lexington Avenue, in the upper east side. It is on the second floor and overlooks Lexington Avenue. The scenery is beatufiul, and the food is delicious and reasonably priced. The service is also very good.

  23. August 3rd, 2006 11:09 am

    If you are every in New York, you have to go eat at Agra, and Indian restaurant. Its located at East 63rd Street and Lexington Avenue, in the upper east side. It is on the second floor and overlooks Lexington Avenue. The scenery is beatufiul, and the food is delicious and reasonably priced. The service is also very good.

    There aren’t many fancy Pakistani restuarants in New York City. Most of them are in Brooklyn and Queens, and are more like social clubs.

  24. RA says:
    August 3rd, 2006 10:25 pm

    Toronto – well if Tikka is your flavour you have to go the expanded Lahore Tikka house. Actually owned by a Lahori! The food is probably the most famous in Toronto and I have gone there many times after horrible wedding dinner experiences! Iqbal’s Tikka House is also quite good and equally as busy. Downtown and uptown best of both!

    Btw, Shalimar (San Fran) is probably the best (and the CHEAPEST) pakistani food I have ever had!

  25. icedmocha says:
    August 10th, 2006 7:37 pm

    Well Adil, if u head over 2 London sometime, check out Mirch Masala. The food is typically desi and tastes just awesome! Reminds me of Pakistan everytime I go and eat there. There are 2 branches I know of- one in Tooting and one in Streatham. Check it out if you happen 2 come over!

  26. Zain Imran says:
    August 13th, 2006 2:06 am

    I think Kabob Palace in Arlington, Virginia is a good place to eat. You should definately check it out if you are in the DC area.

  27. bhitai says:
    September 25th, 2006 2:06 am

    I don’t know about the best, but arguably the dirtiest one is Shalimar in San Francisco. This place is an enigma for those who think the US has some kind of health regulations. Not that I care anyway, but if there’s any outbreak of a deadly disease ever traced to this particular location, I will be least surprised. Having said this, I am a huge fan of pretty much every non-veg dish on their menu. The hermanos and amigos there do a terrific job.

  28. Yousaf says:
    September 25th, 2006 2:06 am

    Well , just for the info sake , I couldnt find a Single Paki resturant in Kentucky , now i am trying to find one in Memphis , TN , any ideas Gurus ? last time i tried Nihari was with Savoy houston Tx , and it was Alright , but could Never Forget the Legendry Nihari of Lahore which is “HAJI NiHari” AKA “DENAA Nihari” located “Lohari Gate” (in case if you would like to refresh your memory about ancient gates of lahore then this link could do the rest , As far as Siri paya’s are concerned , Hats Off for USTAD PHAAJJAA Lahore . There is no compitition . :) simply NO .. could’nt find any thing even close to him .. whay you guys think ??

  29. September 25th, 2006 2:42 am

    Folks, we have an update to this post (here). May we please ask that all further suggestions and comments be posted there. Thanks.

  30. Anam says:
    December 19th, 2009 3:23 pm

    In chicago, you can find the best paratha rolls at Tahoora, best nehari at sabri nehari, best barbecue at Khan bbq and best pakistani chinese at Usmania Chinese.

Have Your Say (Bol, magar piyar say)