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Before he was commissioning belly dancers, Ray Babaghaghsh had cheesier concerns: For years he ran a pizza joint in the now-defunct Brickyard Mall. But last February, Ray, his sister-in-law Kathy (both pictured), and his cousins Rubeen and Romel went back to their Persian roots to open Shiraz. First step: Fill a former auto-parts store with beaded chandeliers, mosaic tiles, a trickling fountain and tapestry-strewn banquettes. “The decor was meant to evoke the palace in Shiraz,” Ray says, referring to his Iranian hometown.
The royal court will be complete when a few kinks are smoothed out. “We really struggled to get a liquor license, belly dancers won’t perform unless we serve drinks, and we can’t get live music till there are dancers,” Ray says. “It’s linking one thing to another.” Now with a liquor license in place, Ray promises the entertainment will follow.
Until you can get a side of shimmy with your shish kebab, the food is the main attraction. Chef Mostafa Sapavamd pours his heart—and 17 years of experience—into traditional Persian fare such as tender chicken simmered in pomegranate-walnut sauce; eggplant stew with onions and yellow split peas in a saffron-tomato sauce; and gormeh sabzi, a stew of kidney beans, dried lime and rice.
While he looks forward to packing the place, Ray insists that the made-with-love flavor will endure: “I hate when food tastes like it comes from a manufacturing line. We are adamant about keeping the food quality.”—Jennifer Berg
4425 W Montrose Ave between Kenneth and Kostner Aves (773-777-7275). El: Blue to Montrose. Bus: 53 Pulaski, 78 Montrose. Lunch, dinner (closed Mon). Average main course: $12.