Ariana Grill Kabob House, Charlottesville, VA (Sadly, it has gone out of business)

909 W Main St
Charlottesville VA 22903

Visit the website:
Ariana Grill Kabob House

Facebook Page

(434) 872-9906
Open Daily
Sun 12 - 9pm (last order: 8:30)
M - Sat 11am - 10pm (last order: 9:30)

by Danielle Bussone

En-route to the Richmond Vegetarian Festival we decided to try Ariana Grill Kabob House in Charlottesville, VA. We are ever so glad we did. Ariana’s is the first experience we have had with Afghani cuisine. The restaurant is located on busy the busy Main Street which divides the University of Virginia’s campus. Further down, the street is lined with restaurants of all varieties catering to the university crowd.

Ariana’s is a small narrow restaurant, what we in the South used to refer to as a shotgun style building. (You can shoot a shotgun in the front door and the pellets will exit out the rear door.) There are tables on either side of the door  terminating at the kitchen where you can watch the chef prepare homemade Afghani bread (which unfortunately is not vegan-there is a little milk in it). I’m afraid I couldn’t resist trying a piece which is my mea culpa for the year. I’ve been so good until yesterday and I’m ridden with guilt. There is a hot bar in the kitchen where you can see large warming vats  of vegetable stews which comprise the bulk of the vegetarian menu. Of the seven stews, six were vegan if you asked them to omit the yogurt topping on the sweet potatoes.

We spoke with Mariam, a strikingly lovely young woman who helps her parents operate Ariana Grill Kabab House. It is a quaint, family concern run by Ariana’s father, Nemat, her mother, Shakila, her two brothers (who work occasionally on weekends) and Miriam. The family relocated to Charlottesville in 2009 when they found the space and opened Ariana Grill Kabob House. Nemat is a compact, brick of a man with a firm handshake and the confident smile of a man in charge of his domain. Shakila came to the US when she was 9 years old and has grown up here. Nemat immigrated from Afghanistan in his early twenties. Miriam and her brothers are first generation Afghani-Americans. Nemat’s food is steeped in the tradition of his homeland.

It is quite similar to Indian and Pakistani cuisine in that the spices are a mixture of curries containing cumin, mint, coriander, chilies and cardamom. Ariana also uses an herb called sumac (dried grape leaves). The slight variation of these spices make Afghani cuisine unique. The food is much less spicy than its Indian and Pakistani counterparts and is a bit heavier on its use of oils. It was nonetheless delicious.

We ordered two combination plates which include portions of three entrees ($8.95), a house salad with vinegar and oil, a flavored rice and Afghani bread, (which is not vegan). There was nothing available as a substitute for the bread. Plates of single items are $7.95.

All of the vegetarian dishes come with a side salad, bread and rice. The rice is flavored with cumin, cardamon and coriander. It is first cooked on the stove and then baked in the oven to intensify the flavor. We chose combination plates because between the two of us we could try everything that is vegan on the menu. There was a an spinach dish which is nearly a puree. It dissolves in your mouth leaving a rich, intensely flavorful spinachy sensation lingering on your palate. My favorite was the okra, which is cooked down in a curried stew which will melt in your mouth. It was wonderful. I also had a mixed vegetable curry. Rich had the chickpea stew, an amazingly delicious sweet potato dish and a potato curry.  There was nothing I would not order again.

I spoke with a table of diners at Ariana’s and asked them how they liked their food. One woman said she has been eating at Ariana’s since they opened in June 2009 and she has never had a bad meal. She estimates she has eaten at Ariana’s over 25 times. Her guests were new to the restaurant and raved about the food. There are plenty of options for your carnivorous friends so no one need be left out.

Ariana’s is open 7 days a week,  Mon-Sat  11 am-9:30 pm , Sun 9 am-8:30 pm


Co-founder and editor of Veggin’ Out and About, Danielle writes restaurant reviews, profiles and interviews of people making a difference in the plant-based community. She is currently writing a cookbook for vegans called, “Time For Change: Whole Foods For Whole Health.”

Danielle’s region is SW Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina and anywhere she happens to stop for sustenance along the road. Contact Danielle  directly to share your restaurant finds, to make comments or just to say hello.

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