Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Tehran's Famous Eateries Survive Fast-Food Revolution

Many residents of the capital still prefer the traditional Iranian fare offered at the older restaurants.
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  • The head chef of a Kale Pazi (a restaurant that serves lamb broth) is cutting out the lamb brain to serve to his customers. (Photo: Farshid Alyan)
    The head chef of a Kale Pazi (a restaurant that serves lamb broth) is cutting out the lamb brain to serve to his customers. (Photo: Farshid Alyan)
  • In Kale Pazi (restaurants that serve lamb broth), pickles not only add to the taste of the food, they are also believed to counter its high fat content. (Photo: Farshid Alyan)
    In Kale Pazi (restaurants that serve lamb broth), pickles not only add to the taste of the food, they are also believed to counter its high fat content. (Photo: Farshid Alyan)
  • In this Sirabi pazi (a restaurant that offers lamb's tripe), the head chef is serving the customers cooked tripe that's already been cut into pieces. (Photo: Farshid Alyan)
    In this Sirabi pazi (a restaurant that offers lamb's tripe), the head chef is serving the customers cooked tripe that's already been cut into pieces. (Photo: Farshid Alyan)
  • Sharaf-al Eslami, the 70-year-old restaurant in Tehran's bazaar. Customers here always have to queue for lunch. (Photo: Farshid Alyan)
    Sharaf-al Eslami, the 70-year-old restaurant in Tehran's bazaar. Customers here always have to queue for lunch. (Photo: Farshid Alyan)
  • Inside the Sharaf-ol Eslami restaurant. (Photo: Farshid Alyan)
    Inside the Sharaf-ol Eslami restaurant. (Photo: Farshid Alyan)
  • Dizi is a combination of beef, grains and potato that is cooked at a low heat. It is one of the most popular traditional Iranian foods. (Photo: Farshid Alyan)
    Dizi is a combination of beef, grains and potato that is cooked at a low heat. It is one of the most popular traditional Iranian foods. (Photo: Farshid Alyan)
  • A lot of families go to Dizi restaurants at the weekends. (Photo: Farshid Alyan)
    A lot of families go to Dizi restaurants at the weekends. (Photo: Farshid Alyan)
  • Tables should be booked in advance in this well-known Dizi restaurant. (Photo: Farshid Alyan)
    Tables should be booked in advance in this well-known Dizi restaurant. (Photo: Farshid Alyan)
  • Bobby Sands Hamburger shop with a picture of the late member of the Provisional IRA. (Photo: Farshid Alyan)
    Bobby Sands Hamburger shop with a picture of the late member of the Provisional IRA. (Photo: Farshid Alyan)
  • There are still some old sandwich shops, like this one, that serve food in a dish instead of a wrapped sandwich. (Photo: Farshid Alyan)
    There are still some old sandwich shops, like this one, that serve food in a dish instead of a wrapped sandwich. (Photo: Farshid Alyan)

The number of chain restaurants and fast-food outlets in the huge shopping malls of Tehran are increasing every day, rivaling the city's traditional eateries.

The old and well-known restaurants and sandwich shops still have their own regular customers, who come for the classic Iranian dishes on offer.

For instance, the Sharaf-ol Eslami restaurant has been serving its customers a particular favourite Chelo Kebab (Kebab and rice) since it was opened in 1938.

Another culinary landmark is the Dizi restaurant which has been offering a popular beef broth for the past 40 years.

The middle-aged and some young people still prefer the traditional Iranian foods to the foreign ones.

For this reason, Sirabi Pazi (restaurants that make broth with lamb's tripe) and Kale Pazi (those that offer a traditional dish made with a sheep's head and hooves) still have a lot of customers despite the fact that doctors have warned that these foods are unhealthy as they're very heavy in saturated animal fats.

Among the old sandwich shops across the city, there's an outlet called Yek Fereydoon, nicknamed Feri Kasif (Dirty Feri). This is not a reference to the quality of the food, rather an attempt to distinguish it from the newer kids on the block with their glamour and frills.

One of the classic sandwich shops in north Tehran decided to change its name twenty years ago to Bobby Sands to attract public attention. Bobby Sands was a member of Provisional Irish Republican Army who died in 1981 after 66 days of hunger strike in a prison in Northern Ireland. Since then, in a snub to Britain, Iran changed the name of Churchill street next to the British embassy in Tehran to Bobby Sands street.