The Armenian culture is rich with unique dishes and recipes that speak to our history, people, and way of life. This palette of food, that relies heavily on the quality and freshness of ingredients rather than excessive use of spices, has garnered quite the following from all groups of people, especially the inhabitants of Los Angeles. In response, many new Armenian restaurants have opened offering meals that you’d only otherwise get to eat in an authentic cafe in Yerevan. The Armenian food industry is clearly thriving and here are my personal favorite local Armenian places to eat at.
In December of 1993, Rafik Bakijanian opened Raffi’s Place. It’s a family-owned restaurant on Broadway in Glendale, inspired by him and his wife’s love of home cooking and known to offer one of the best kebab and Middle Eastern food in town. My family and I are regulars there, indulging in the delicious, authentic Persian- Armenian food. Their entrees include kebab, lambs, chicken and salmon and are all served on a bed of fluffy white saffron rice with grilled tomato and Anaheim pepper. My favorite appetizer, tabbouleh, is made flawlessly, each ingredient fresh and a perfect match to their homemade house dressing. 20 more salads and dishes, varying from hummus to ghormeh sabzi to fried eggplant all speak to the restaurant's talent and ability to make every dish tasty and good quality.
Perhaps even more well known is Carousel. With many locations all around Southern California, every Armenian or Lebanese has been to this restaurant at least once. It’s known for serving mezza, an array of hot and cold dishes that they purposely give in small portions in order for patrons to sample all foods. In Middle Eastern culture, there's a huge emphasis on sharing food, and setting many platters in the middle that everyone can eat from–Carousel stays true to this tradition. They offer over 60 mezza items, like hummus, falafel, and tabouleh, to more traditional and unique plates, like fattoush (salad), sarma (grape leaves), and lebni khadeezi (a yogurt mix)–my favorite. Everything is so delicious and true to Armenian culture that it’s impossible to eat just one thing, so you leave beyond stuffed. All their menu items come from original family recipes passed down through generations, and if you’re unfamiliar with the Lebanese food, a staff member will even guide you through the menu.
Most recently in Glendale Karas restaurant has opened. Karas was founded in 2005 in Armenia, now having 12 service points in Yerevan and 2 in resort cities of Armenia. It’s become one of the biggest fast-food chains operating in the country, and recently Karas has brought a bit of the homeland here by opening its first service point in the heart of Glendale. Their mission is to serve the larger groups of society, offering a wide array of national cuisine and providing the best combination of price and quality. The menu offers many of the dishes mentioned above, traditional barbeques, soups like borscht, and Armenian scrambled eggs, but Karas adds a new modern twist many of the other restaurants lack. Not only is their setup sleek and hip with red and white chairs and hanging lamps, but their menu items incorporate lots of beloved American dishes too. By offering things like french fries, Atlantic salmon, margarita pizza and even Caesar salad, Karas is bravely combining two cultures to create this perfect blend of food and atmosphere. So if you’re ever in the mood to truly be an Armenian in America, this is the best restaurant to visit. And if you happen to go on the weekend, you will also get to hear famous Armenian bands perform live as you eat.
Armenian food is loved by many and thanks to the new abundance of Middle Eastern restaurants it’s finally getting the recognition it deserves. So if you already have a love for the spices and palettes Armenian food is known for, or perhaps want to discover a new favorite cuisine, visit any one of these restaurants to get a small taste of what makes Armenia so special.