The casual, family-style restaurant brings the spice-fueled South Asian flavors to the Parmer Lane corridor.
“You hear a lot of different languages and [see] religious garb. It is kind of a beautiful thing,” customer Max Aliprandi said. He said he and his friend Arsalan Alam dine at the restaurant at least once a week.
Aliprandi looks at a table where 12 family members are speaking Arabic. At another table, children converse in Urdu mixed with English. At a third table, Spanish. The Texas accent resonates in all three conversations.
Yasmeen Siddiqui, who co-owns Zaviya Grill with Mehreen Pathan, said the Pakistani style of cooking does not use coconut milk and is heavy on spices and satisfies a variety of palates. North Indian food is similar, except Pakistani food is meat-centered, Siddiqui said.
The naan, a flat bread made fresh to order in a tandoor, or brick oven, is popular with all South Asian populations. And the spice level attracts those who enjoy Mexican food.
“Our clients are Austinites of Pakistani, Indian, Bangladeshi and Arab origin. We also get Mexicans and locals without South Asian ties, because we try to make some effort, and we have options for them,” Siddiqui said. “So some of our food is spicy, and that is authentic. We don’t want to tamper with that spice level.”
Siddiqui and her business partner purchased Mirchi restaurant and rebranded as Zaviya Grill on April 28, 2019, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the time, Siddiqui left her job as a commercial real estate developer to run the restaurant with Kashif Pathan, the husband of her co-partner.
Without any previous experience in the food industry, she said she learned on the job from dishwashing to the cash register before making any changes to the new purchase.
“My husband and I are fans of authentic Pakistani food, and we wanted to preserve that and make the restaurant family-friendly,” she said.
Her hope, she said, was to create a place where people from South Asia, a fast-growing population in Austin, could enjoy the cuisine.
She said she had to be creative when indoor dining closed during the pandemic, delivering online orders to central locations where clients could come pick up orders.
That was when the owners expanded the interior to prepare for after the pandemic with booth seating and wooden tables.
The restaurant also allows customers to order from the buffet or order from the a la carte menu.
All meat is halal, and popular items on the menu include goat payas, a slow-cooked stew made from mutton or beef hoofs.
Regular items on the buffet include biryani, a rice and meat dish; a tomato and chicken stew; meat curries; and vegetables. Desserts include rice pudding and gulab jamun, a fried dough covered in sweet syrup.