Atlanta Orders In: Hard-to-find Persian flatbread has made Taaj Kabob a star

This takeout feast from Taaj Kabob & Grill includes: in the back, Shirazi salad and beef and chicken koobideh kebobs; in the middle, lamb shank and baghali polo; and up front, hummus, kashk badenjoon and mirza ghasemi. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
This takeout feast from Taaj Kabob & Grill includes: in the back, Shirazi salad and beef and chicken koobideh kebobs; in the middle, lamb shank and baghali polo; and up front, hummus, kashk badenjoon and mirza ghasemi. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

People who love Middle Eastern food are used to scooping up their hummus and baba ghanoush with pita. At Persian restaurants, your tray of herbs and salty white cheese (sabzi khordan) is likely to come with a side of lavash. That’s not the case at Taaj Kabob & Grill, a five-year-old restaurant, bakery and Persian grocery store in Peachtree Corners.

At Taaj, owner Kamel Fadavi takes great pride in his authentic sangak, a leavened flatbread that’s unique to Atlanta. It is so popular, Fadavi said, that customers come from North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Tennessee and Alabama just for the bread.

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Taaj Kabob & Grill is the only place in town that makes the Persian flatbread sangak; people drive from far and wide to buy the $3.50 loaf. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Taaj Kabob & Grill is the only place in town that makes the Persian flatbread sangak; people drive from far and wide to buy the $3.50 loaf. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Fadavi, who grew up in southern Iran, credits his sangak with helping him develop a steady clientele. One owner of an intown Persian restaurant buys Taaj’s $3.50 loaves to pair with a weekend special of abgoosht (lamb and chickpea stew); otherwise, he’d have to have it shipped frozen from California or Washington, D.C.

Just a couple of weeks before the pandemic hit, Fadavi finalized plans to expand his restaurant, where the large sangak oven has a room of its own, but nonetheless can make it hard to cool the dining room. COVID-19 not only put the brakes on his dream, but also led him to suspend table service, a decision that has not always endeared him to guests.

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Taaj Kabob & Grill appetizers, salads and kebabs include (from top): Shirazi salad and hummus; dip of fried eggplant with whey and dip of smoked eggplant with tomatoes and garlic; and a combo  of chicken and beef koobideh kebabs. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Taaj Kabob & Grill appetizers, salads and kebabs include (from top): Shirazi salad and hummus; dip of fried eggplant with whey and dip of smoked eggplant with tomatoes and garlic; and a combo of chicken and beef koobideh kebabs. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“Since March, all we have is takeout,” said Fadavi, who lives in Alpharetta with his wife and three sons. “A lot of customers, they are critical: ‘Why don’t you have the dining? Rumi’s has the dining. Delbar has the dining.’”

Fadavi responds by telling them he wants to help stop the spread of the virus. Keeping people safe is more important to him than making a profit. “We’ve got to protect the people.”

At 44, Fadavi knows what it’s like to be vulnerable.

Taaj Kabob & Grill bakes its sangak flatbread in an oven so big it has its own room. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Taaj Kabob & Grill bakes its sangak flatbread in an oven so big it has its own room. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

In 2005, he left Iran for Guangzhou, China, “because of religious problems.” In China, he ran a successful import-export business that employed 100 people. But, finding a good education for his non-Mandarin-speaking children was difficult. “For my kids, it was really hard.” A large chunk of his day was spent driving them to English-language schools. In 2012, he decided to try the U.S. It took him two years to secure a visa.

Fadavi said he developed an interest in cooking as a child. When he moved to China, he craved the cuisine of Iran, so he made it himself, often preparing meals for large groups. When it came time to open a restaurant in Gwinnett County, it was just a matter of scaling up the recipes.

Kamel Fadavi (left) is the owner of Taaj Kabob & Grill, and Noushad Naderpour is the manager. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Kamel Fadavi (left) is the owner of Taaj Kabob & Grill, and Noushad Naderpour is the manager. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The food at Taaj Kabob is classic Persian — chicken, lamb and beef kebabs; yogurt, chickpea and eggplant dips; fresh salads; a few stews and braises; perfect basmati rice. After hearing about the sangak, I made a point of reviewing the restaurant last year, and was deeply impressed by the quality and value of the food.

Taaj is exactly the kind of small, family-owned place I’d hate to see fall victim to the pandemic. Fadavi said business can be slow during the week, but it tends to pick up on weekends. He’s fortunate to operate in an area that largely is residential, so there’s a demand for takeout.

Indeed, when I dropped by Sunday, a row of tables near the front door was filled with to-go orders. Manager Noushad Naderpour told me they were having a busy night.

The owners of Taaj Kabob & Grill in Peachtree Corners also operate a Persian corner market next door. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The owners of Taaj Kabob & Grill in Peachtree Corners also operate a Persian corner market next door. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Soon, Fadavi appeared. When I asked him why he goes to all the trouble of offering his famous sangak, he said it’s a sentimental thing, a taste of home. Though sangak traditionally was baked on beds of pebbles, a technique that can leave tiny holes and brown pockmarks on the surface, Fadavi doesn’t follow the ancient practice.

It’s too risky: Sometimes an errant pebble will stick to the bread, which could send a person to the dentist. “I didn’t want to spend all my time in court,” he joked.

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TAAJ KABOB & GRILL

Menu: Persian

Alcohol: no

What I ordered: kashk badenjoon (fried eggplant with cream of whey), mirza ghasemi (smoked eggplant spread), hummus, Shirazi salad, lamb shank with baghali polo (rice with dill and favas), chicken and beef koobideh kebab combo, extra sangak. This kitchen really has a way with kebabs, eggplant and, of course, bread.

Service options: takeout or delivery via UberEats, DoorDash, GrubHub

Outdoor dining: no

Mask policy: employees, yes; no strict policy for guests, who are allowed inside only briefly to pick up takeout

Address, phone: 6385 Spalding Drive, Peachtree Corners. 770-559-8799

Hours: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and 5-8:30 p.m. daily

Website: taajmarketandrestaurant.com

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