TO DINE AT BABANI’S on the edge of downtown St. Paul is to enter a surprisingly separate world of tantalizing aroma and flavor. One of few restaurants in the country featuring the cuisine of Kurdistan, Babani’s is an off-the-beaten-track dining treasure, serving up enjoyable Middle Eastern cuisine from cozy and colorful digs in an 1888 apartment building across the street from St. Joseph’s Hospital.
In a boldly painted room decorated with Kurdish tapestries and pictures, Babani’s offers a selection of tasty soups and salads along with 10 entrees, vegetarian or sauteed chicken/beef in interesting spicy vegetable dishes. Basmati rice, salad or soup, and yeasty bread come with the $12 entrees.
I never skip the wonderful Dowjic soup, a textured chicken-and-rice soup infused with pepper, basil, and tangy lemon and yogurt. Wine isn’t on the menu, but you can B.Y.O.B. and Babani’s will supply the glasses for a very reasonable $6 corkage fee. (Babani’s is one of the Twin Cities’s few such bottle shops; the marvelous Mango Thai is another).
The restaurant’s location on a one-way street abutting Interstate 94 has something of a lonely feel, but the eight or so tables and booths at this unique St. Paul charmer regularly fill with diners from the Fitzgerald Theatre, History Theatre, and the McNally Smith College of Music, all within a two- to three-block radius.
Babani’s Kurdish Restaurant | 544 St. Peter Street, St. Paul (corner of 11th and St. Peter, across the street from St. Joseph’s Hospital) | 651-602-9964 | Hours: Mon–Thu lunch 11–2:30, dinner 5–9; Fri lunch 11–2:30, dinner 5–9:30; Sat dinner 5–9:30; closed Sun