Hidden away off of a side street near Love Field is a small, quaint Persian café that will reward those willing to seek it out. The owner and chef is Samad Afghanipour, and he has been running this little eatery by himself for over 34 years now. He cooks, he greets, he serves and he answers questions. He says that pre-pandemic his restaurant, nestled in a nondescript building that appears to share space with an auto sales business, was busy and doing very well. He’s still trying to resume business at those levels, and here’s hoping he will.
Samad's Cafe, a nondescript building housing some wonderful food.
The menu boasts specials for each day of the week (lamb shank, chicken quarters, beef chunks) as well as well as chelo (ground beef) and jojeh (chicken) kabobs daily. For the lamb aficionado, there is a $50 special that includes lamb head, two lamb feet, and two lamb tongues, but requires 48-hour notice. It’s the Peking duck of Persian food, evidently. All are served with rice, either white or baghali (green rice flavored with spices, dried dill and lima beans), or a combo of both.
The beef was seasoned perfectly and grilled just right; it would have to be, after all, because even though Afghanipour could be seen grilling over an open flame in the kitchen and preparing each dish, he took the time to bring out the beef kabobs to verify they were cooked to our liking.
Samad prepping and grilling in his kitchen
Cindy & Hank Vaughn
They were. The chicken (pictured at top) was also perfectly grilled, chunks of juicy white meat that had a fire-charred taste. Both came with two skewers worth of meat that had been removed prior to serving. The baghali rice was an interesting mélange of flavors with a light and fluffy texture. Each plate included several slices of fire-roasted tomatoes that added a burst of color as well as flavor. Rounding it off was a plate of accouterments that included pita quarters, limes, raw jalapeños and onions.
Chelo kabob: ground beef served with rice, roasted tomatoes, onions, limes and jalapeños
The lamb shank was frenched and served in a bowl that had been filled with the natural juice of this tenderly braised piece of meat, and as such properly fell off the bone revealing moist and delectable lamb goodness, with aromas to match. This also was served with a large plate of rice.
Fall-off-the-bone braised lamb shank.
During the whole experience, Samad was attentive and helpful. He brought over a jar of spice he said we must try on the meat and rice. It did add to the party, and he explained that it was sumac, which we’d never had as a spice before. He was also glad to answer questions about the baghali and recount the restaurant's history.
Samad's Café is the epitome of a hidden foodie gem. It's obvious why it's lasted 34 years, and we are optimistic that this run will continue. During the visit, a gentleman came in and was immediately greeted warmly by Samad. He was a regular who had arrived for his lamb fix. He told us that he’d been coming here for more than 20 years. With dedicated loyal regulars like that, Samad’s café should be around to be discovered and enjoyed for years to come.
Just be sure to bring cash, as he doesn’t accept credit cards.
Samad's Café, 2706 Manor Way (Dallas) 11:30 a.m. - 4 p.m. Monday - Friday; 11:30 a.m. - 3 p.m. Saturday; closed Sunday