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Favorite Afghan Restaurants in D.C. area?

  • m

D.C. is the closest place to North Carolina that has Afghan restaurants. I didn't realize how spoiled we were living in the SF Bay Area where such cuisine was in plentiful supply, but the craving is reaching unacceptable levels now. So what are the best bets in D.C.? Our favorite dishes are Bulanee Katchalu (Turnover stuffed with ground lamb, mashed potatoes, and spices), Pakawra-e-badenjan (eggplant topped with yogurt and meat sauce), mantu (Dumplings filled with ground lamb and chickpeas), Qabili Pallaw (lamb under a mound of pallaw, topped with carrot stripes and raisins), and kadu (Sauteed pumpkin topped with yogurt).

Here are a few restaurants that I've found in my search so far:

Afghan Kabob Restaurant - Springfield, VA http://www.afghankabobrestaurant.com/...

Bamian - Falls Church, VA

Panjshir - Falls Church, VA

Afghan Grill - D.C.

Faryab - Bethesda, MD

Afghan Restaurant - Alexandria, VA

Any firsthand accounts as to the relative quality of food at these places? Any others not listed that you'd recommend? I don't care so much about service in this instance, because my teeth were cut on exceptionally good Afghan cuisine, so that's the priority. (Note: Helmand in Baltimore is not an option since we'd already be driving up from NC for this).

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  1. Bamian is relatively new and has had several good reviews here and the usual smattering of "why did I ever come here?". It's probably the prettiest Afghan restaurant in the area, and personally I've enjoyed eating there. The Panjshir on that web page no longer exists, but there's a Panjshir 2 on Maple Avenue (the main drag) in Vienna that's quite good, though the service is always very slow.

    For a quick meal, there's a hole-in-the-wall called, I think, Food Corner on Little River Turnpike in Annandale, just East of John Marr Drive (across from the K-Mart store) that's quite good and very homey. It's surrounded by Korean restaurants.

    4 Replies
    1. re: MikeR

      I think you have the two Panjshirs mixed up. The one if Falls Church is still open, at least it was a few months ago. The one in Vienna is the one that closed because of a fire a few years ago, unless they re-opened the Vienna one and closed the Falls Church one recently.

      As far as the Food Corner on Little River Turnpike, that is one of the best Kabob places in the area IMHO. The people who own that also opened one on Rt. 7 in Tyson's Corner in the same strip as Marshall's and Pier One.There's one is Springfield as well but I've never been to that one.

      1. re: jamall

        The Panjshir in Vienna re-opened (after the fire) several months ago. I think the one in Falls Church has been gone for some time now, unless it's at a different location than I remember from several years ago - next door to Bangkok Blues (which is where the address on the web page is. I can't believe it's so well hidden that I haven't noticed it, and I go past there a couple of times a week.

        I'll remember to look twice for it next time I pass that way.

        1. re: MikeR

          Panjshir in Falls Church is definitely still open in the same location it has always been -- I ate there maybe two weeks ago. Service and food were the same I can remember as before, and I first ate there probably over 15 years ago: solid.

          1. re: holdtheline

            I have to beg to differ. I went t o Panjshir two nights ago, and would not recommend it. The spicing is bland and the portions of meat in the stews were skimpy. I've eaten at Afghan Grill before (at Woodley Park) and think it's much better.

    2. I haven't been to all of them but Bamian has the best ambiance and great food. It is owned by the same people that own the Afghan Rstaurant in Alexandria. Quality of food at both is about the same.

      1. there is a great place in herndon called 'charcoal kebab'. its definitely afghan but i'm not sure if it fits your bill, since they pretty much carry kebabs and a few curried veggies and meats. no pumpkin or anything.

        1 Reply
        1. re: kneelconqueso

          I really like CK. I was introduced to it in 2000 by an Afghani friend. At the time they had many posters on the wall referring directly to Afghanistan. After 9/11 they took those down. At any rate, when eating there the first time, my friend looked around to make sure no one could hear and leaned to me and said "They claim to be Afghani but really they're Pakistani".

          I have no real way of knowing, and at the time the comment was amusing.

          There used to be a place in the little strip by Elden in the same parking lot. Not sure if it's still there, and I haven't been to it if it is.

        2. I personally really like the Afghan Restaurant in Alexandria. It doesn't look like much from the outside. In fact, when my husband first suggested going there, I was actually a little leary. However, I love their food! I could fill up on their bread and yogurt alone. I absolutely love their lamb kabobs also. All that being said, I have not eaten at the other restaurants on your list and the closest I've ever come to real Afghan food is when I was in Armenia (not sure if that is a fair comparison?).

          1. Go a bit further north to Baltimore and dine at the Helmand. Seach the board for recs.

            Or to Columbia for Maiwand Kabob

            3 Replies
            1. re: MrsWheatie

              Is Helmand really that much better than the D.C./VA options that would warrant the extra hour drive? The reviews certainly seem fantastic, as does the prestige of its ownership.

              1. re: mikeh

                I support all who have chimed in for Bamian - delicious and good atmosphere. I recommend staying overnight and trying Bamian one night and Helmand the next. Make reservations at Helmand, because it's always crowded. IMHO, Helmand is a cut above the rest, but I don't schlep up to Baltimore very often myself, so I can see why you would pose such a question...make a weekend of it!

                1. re: pleen

                  Wow, that is an excellent suggestion.

            2. There are plenty of places to get kabobs. For the rest of Afghan cuisine, Faryab in Bethesda is your best bet. Food Corner has very good kabobs.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Steve

                Thanks for this recommendation. I'm really not that interested in ordering kabobs at all for my visit, just because one can really explore a lot more of the intricacies that make Afghan food great by ordering the non-kebob dishes like the ones I mentioned in my original post. Additionally, I can find excellent kabobs at any number of non-Afghan Middle Eastern restaurants here in Raleigh/Durham NC.

                1. re: mikeh

                  Most of those kebobs are different from the Afghan kinds, I think. Kebob is a word used for many many things.

                  1. re: asayeed

                    Indeed you are correct. I first started out my Afghan cuisine experience on kabobs, but my personal preference is for the other items. And while the kabobs I can get here are quite different from Afghan-style ones, they aren't as disparate as, say, the closest substitute one can find for Qabili or Kadu. Nothing around here even touches the ballpark.

              2. I recommend afghan grill - and it's right in the city so there's lots to do after dinner. They have a great kadu, qabili pallaw and mantu. I also really like the atmosphere in the restaurant - very cozy and intimate.

                1. A great low-end but delicious kabab place is the Food Factory in College Park. Pathan food served on paper plates.

                  1. I like Afghan Kabob in Springfield. Of the dishes you're looking for, I've only had the mantu (beef) there and it was very good. Kebabs and grills are excellent. Don't be put off by the exterior--it looks like a bordello to me. But, inside, it's very nice, candlelight, tabelcloths. I felt underdressed in jeans. The people who work there are friendly but the service is slow. I wouldn't go if you need to get in and out quickly. You get a lot of food for your money and everything we've had we've enjoyed.

                    1. Check out Silk Road in Landsdowne (near Leesburg VA). We ate there about ten days ago; it was outstanding. There's a short thread on this place on this board.

                      They have all of your favorites.