A Taste of Home: Kabul Grill’s Authentic Afghan Cuisine

By Anjulina Varghese

If you haven’t experienced Afghan cuisine yet, take the ride to Kabul Grill in Huntington.

Since its opening in 1989, the restaurant, at 129 North Broadway, has been a cherished establishment in the local community, offering a delicious variety of authentic Afghan dishes. 

Rafi Sarwary, 58, the owner of Kabul Grill, has been cooking since he was 19 and would always share ideas for dishes with anyone and everyone.

“Since my family was already in it, I always wanted to have a business but didn’t have the finance at the time to do it,” he said. 

Beyond Kabul Grill, Sarwary also oversees Ariana Afghan Kabob in Manhattan, a venture launched by his sister in 1986. Throughout the years, Sarwary has encountered numerous difficulties inherent to the restaurant business.

The interior of Kabul Grill.

“There are always challenges, stress levels rise especially when preparing food and getting it out to customers,” he said.

There was no bigger challenge than the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“During Covid-19, things changed as labor became hard to find,” he said. 

This had been a major problem that affected many restaurants all over Long Island. Despite the problems that he faced, Sarwary finds solace and joy in the community that formed within his restaurant’s walls.

“We get groups of Indian customers frequently who love Afghan food, which brings a sense of community,” he said.

Members of the Afghan community come to the restaurant a lot as well, which shows the kind of comfort and hospitality the restaurant exudes through the staff and the food.

Sarwary grew up in the capital city of Kabul, Afghanistan. Times were tough during his childhood as there was the rise of a new communist party in Kabul so in 1985, when Sarwary was 20-years-old, his family moved to the US and settled in Queens..

“Life here was totally different compared to Afghanistan,” he said. “There was much more freedom, more opportunities, and things you can do that you didn’t have anywhere else.”

Sarwary went to Hunter College to study civil engineering. Due to other responsibilities he had to fulfill and helping out at the restaurant, he only ended up studying for two semesters.

Traditional Afghan seating with pillows and rugs.

Kabul Grill was always a family business, and the previous owner, Noor Shair was also from Kabul. Sarwary took over the restaurant in 2015.

“I already had my restaurant Ariana in New York City, but wanted something closer to home and my kids, which is why I decided to take over Kabul Grill,” he said. 

Sarwary recalled learning how to cook from his mother.

“In every culture, you always talk about how good your mother’s cooking is, and so I learned how to cook through her and my brothers and sisters,” he said. 

Sarwary said the key to a successful team at his restaurant lies in finding individuals who are independent and share their passion for cooking.

“When I’m cooking the food, I love seeing others enjoying it, smiling, and having a good time with their families,” he said.

With his wife, two daughters, and son by his side, the family coordinates the daily operations of Kabul Grill, infusing every dish with a sense of familial warmth and friendliness. 

“What I like about Afghan food is that it is light, not over-spiced nor greasy, and so most people like eating it,” he said.

He recommends to anyone interested in eating at Kabul Grill for the first time, to try the chicken breast kabob and the lamb tikka kabob

During a recent visit to Kabul Grill, I was immediately greeted by one of Sarwary’s two daughters, who had a welcoming and friendly nature, which added to the already comforting atmosphere.

Qabeli Palau rice topped with shredded sweet carrots, raisins, and shaved almonds. 

I indulged in a pleasant journey through Afghanistan’s flavors, starting with savory sambosa, which are spinach and beef fried dumplings. For the entrée, I had the kobideh chicken kabob and you could taste all the fresh spices and seasonings it was marinated in. The meat was the right amount of juiciness and tenderness. 

I had this meat dish with their traditional Qabili Palau rice which is topped with shredded sweet carrots, raisins, shaved almonds, and a yogurt sauce drizzled on top. Finally, for dessert, I had firnee, which is a homemade Afghan pudding with pistachio nuts sprinkled over it. The firnee was the perfect way to end off the meal, as it was refreshing and creamy, not too sweet or overpowering.

Firnee, a homemade Afghan pudding topped with pistachio nuts. 

Kabul Grill is a labor of love, a testament to Sarwary’s dedication and passion for sharing the vibrant flavors of Afghan cuisine with the world. In every dish, one can taste the essence of tradition, a culinary heritage preserved and celebrated with every satisfied smile.

Cover photo: Owner Rafi Sarwary and his daughter, Michelle.

Anjulina Varghese is a reporter with The SBU Media Group, part of Stony Brook University’s School of Communication and Journalism’s Working Newsroom program for students and local media.

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