A Persian pop-up restaurant and caterer finds a new following in Columbus.
The owners of Charmy’s Persian Cuisine owned a restaurant in Tehran, but the lesbian couple were under suspicion by the Iranian government of having “Western” ways. Under threat of arrest, the couple moved to the United States to carry on their business, choosing Ohio because Bayegan’s uncle works at the Cleveland Clinic. Seven years later, the now-married couple has garnered new fans in Central Ohio, while also coming across old customers from Tehran.
The pair anticipated that they would grow weary of Central Ohio’s cold winters and eventually move, but they like it here, says Haghiri. Both she and Bayegan have restaurant jobs, with Cameron Mitchell Restaurants and The Goat, respectively. But on Tuesdays and weekends, they focus on growing their own business, serving homemade Persian fare.Like what you’re reading? Subscribe to our weekly newsletters.
Charmy’s has been a featured pop-up at The Hills Market Downtown since January 2019. You can find them there on Tuesdays between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., with preheated meals ready to serve from a catering box. On weekends, catering is available by messaging Charmy’s on Facebook or by texting. Charmy’s offers free delivery (within the I-270 loop) on weekends prior to 3 p.m.
Although the Charmy’s menu changes frequently, saffron rice is omnipresent. Charmy’s takes a traditional route, adding colorful saffron to the top of its mounds of basmati rice. It provides a sweet and floral flavor but does not overwhelm. In some instances, the fluffy rice had a little more salt than others, but overall, I enjoyed the staple.
Kebabs frequently appear on Charmy’s menus in portions that can easily be divided into two meals. Both the chicken and lamb kebabs are served hot in an aluminum container over saffron rice alongside a whole grilled tomato. (In one catering order, I was pleased to also find grilled green pepper accompanying my chicken.)
The chicken kebab ($13 at The Hills Market), features six large pieces of tender grilled chicken breast seasoned with subtle Persian spices. While I would have preferred sweet grilled onions as an accompaniment (which is not uncommon in Persian fare), the juicy, umami-providing tomato made the dish satisfying.
Two 6-inch cylindrical pieces of slightly sweet, grilled ground lamb are the centerpiece of the lamb kebab ($13 at The Hills Market), also served with rice and a grilled tomato.
My favorite dish is a lamb, spinach, plum and lentil stew ($28 for two). The stew, known as khoresh aloo esfenaj, is well-seasoned and has wonderfully tender pieces of lamb tucked among citrus-kicked spinach and lentils, with saffron rice alongside. This stew is a perfect accompaniment to autumn.
It’s always a good idea to try the side dishes. At The Hills Market, I enjoyed a simple cucumber and tomato salad ($3) mixed with a sweet dried mint. Served at room temperature, the bright flavors of the season were a nice addition to the meat-based dishes.
And the mast-o khiar ($5 for half a quart), a walnut-spiked cucumber and yogurt condiment similar to tzatziki is a cooling addition to any meal. Each bite that revealed pieces of dense and crunchy walnuts felt like a treat.