When I moved here from Pakistan in elementary school, the biggest shock to me was that the restaurants weren’t halal. Halal food, which essentially means “permitted” food, is food prepared without pork and alcohol and sacrificed with a prayer. In Pakistan, I could walk into any restaurant and order whatever I wanted: chicken, beef, lamb, anything. Over here, it’s different. I basically had to be vegetarian or pescatarian. Meat was not an option. I ate pasta, seafood, or salads at restaurants and I often had to ask “what’s in it” when ordering.
My mom and I got sick of this very quickly. We went on a big hunt for halal restaurants in the Boston area. Over the years, I think we’ve probably tried every halal restaurant here. So without further ado, I present to you the seven best halal restaurants in the Greater Boston area in no particular order.
Silk Road Uyghur Cuisine
Silk Road Uyghur Cuisine is a restaurant with locations in both Cambridge and Brookline. Here are some details that you should know about the Uyghurs: the Uyghurs are a mostly-Muslim ethnic minority in China and are native to the Xinjiang province. Currently, the Chinese government is detaining Uyghurs in concentration camps in which they are being tortured, killed, and face restrictions on practicing Islam. Adila Sadir is the co-owner of this restaurant, and her own father is currently detained in one of these camps in China.
I first ate at Silk Road a few years back with my mother, close to when it first opened. We ordered a whole variety of things and absolutely loved them. The next week, when my grandma and brother arrived from Pakistan, we took them out to eat at Silk Road. They also loved it. It’s especially unique because of the fusion of Turkic and Chinese flavors that define Uyghur food, and because of their phenomenal hand-pulled noodles that are hard to find in the region unless you travel to New York. Our favorite dishes are the dry fried noodles, dumplings, and stir-fried beef.
The Cambridge location has some basic sit-down options, but the Brookline location is much more of a sit-down family restaurant with a unique decor that evokes an Uyghur mom’s kitchen.
Owner’s favorite dish: Laghman
My overall food rating: 10/10
Man-O-Salwa Kabob & Grill
Man-O-Salwa Kabob & Grill is a restaurant in Somerville, MA. It is not a sit-down place at all, so you should pick up food or get it delivered. It’s a bit different from Peshawari Kebabs because it serves food from the Punjab region of Pakistan, which features more spicy and flavorful food. We’ve been going to this restaurant for almost ten years now, and it serves the best Pakistani food in the Greater-Boston area. My favorite dishes are the chicken biryani, chicken tikka, chicken karahi, and the garlic naan. The flavors cannot be beaten. Beware the spice levels, though! This food is for the Pakistani crowd and definitely not a watered-down version to cater to local tastes!
Overall food rating: 11/10
Peshawari Kebabs is a Pakistani restaurant in Waltham, MA. It specializes in food from the Northwest of Pakistan (Peshawar, in the name, is the biggest city in that region). It is a small restaurant and not particularly fancy, but the decor is very traditional to the Northwest of Pakistan. There is a traditional seating area in the restaurant as well. (Of note: Pakistan is the fifth most populous country in the world. Each region has its own unique cuisine and aesthetic that feeds into the decor.) This is a great place to bring other Pakistanis and to bring friends who will appreciate the unique seating. Our favorite dishes are the Peshawari chapli kebabs, which are evocative of the pan-fried roadside kebabs that you would be served if you were traveling in Peshawar.
Overall food rating: 8.5/10
Crispy Dough Pizzeria
Crispy Dough Pizzeria is a restaurant in Roxbury, MA. It’s a classic American food place, but it’s special because it’s halal and most places that serve American food aren’t. Crispy Dough serves pizza, calzones, subs, salads, pasta, and such. I’m not the biggest fan of it just because I don’t love the type of food they serve, but my family and everyone I know who’s tried it loves it. My cousins from the midwest always ask to go there because it is their chance to eat “real” American food, which many of us are locked out of because it’s not halal. My family’s favorite dishes are the Chicken Ziti Broccoli Alfredo, the much-awarded Blue Buffalo Chicken Pizza, and the wings. Also try their Hawaiian pizza… yum!
Overall food rating: 8/10
Ashur Restaurant is a Somali and Middle Eastern restaurant in Roxbury, MA. It is down the street from a mosque in Roxbury, which is where we first heard about it. My family and I have been going to this restaurant for years. Our favorite dishes are the Chicken Kabob with rice and the Chicken Biryani with mixed vegetables. Also try their samosas – a meat-stuffed variation on the samosas that you will get at South Asian restaurants, but with Somali spices. The standout favorite here, though, is the Somali tea. Regulars will sit and sip for hours at end as they discuss the Somali news. Once you taste the signature mix of cinnamon, cardamom and sugar, you will never be the same again. The hankering will follow you in situations where you know you absolutely cannot get to Ashur to get the tea… or you will find yourself making 9pm tea runs. Thank heavens they are now on GrubHub!!
Overall food rating: 8/10
Falafel Corner is a Middle Eastern restaurant in Cambridge, MA. It is one of the most inexpensive options on this list. Like Man-O-Salwa, it is not a sit-down place, so you should pick up food or get it delivered. My favorite dish at this place is the Chicken Shawarma rollup. I have tried a lot of shawarma in my life, and this place hands down has the best.
Overall rating: 9/10
Nachlo Mexican Cuisine
Nachlo Mexican Cuisine is a really really interesting restaurant because it fuses Mexican and Pakistani food, which is a combination that I have never come across before. The name is a play on ‘nachos’ and the Urdu word for ‘go dance,’ which is “nachlo.” Their biryani is exceptional, and their dessert is excellent overall, especially the carrot halwa. I haven’t tried much else there as yet, so I cannot speak to the rest of the food. They also have a refrigerator full of unique international drinks, which I found really cool.
Overall rating: I won’t give this one an overall rating because I haven’t tried enough yet, but it has great reviews on Google — 4.4 stars out of 5 with 217 reviews.
There are many others that I am sure I have forgotten, but these are great places to go if you’re looking for traditional, authentic tastes as opposed to more Americanized restaurants. I hope this is especially helpful to newcomers in the Boston area who are looking for halal restaurants so they don’t have to struggle the way we did… although the restaurant hunt my mom and I have been on for the last eight years has been kind of fun.