Newhall may be widely known as Hollywood’s Wild West, but Persia Lounge has had no trouble mixing things up with flare from The Middle East. Fall-off-the bone meats, rich hummus, saffron rice and seemingly endless lavash meld with belly dancing, hookah and live music for a holistic cultural experience. As little ol’ Downtown Newhall continues to expand and attract more attention from ‘Mainland LA’, it’s places like Persia Lounge that are bringing the area an elevated allure, not to mention great taste.
Persia Lounge’s humble setup speaks to its authenticity. An inviting, minimalist dining room wraps around the restaurant’s small enclosed kitchen and leads to the lounge in the back, where hookah, music and dancing proceed to run the show. Wall décor pays homage to ancient Middle Eastern décor, and even has some exposed brick painted on. But it’s the food you’re after, and it comes in heaps at Persia Lounge.
Nobody is going to leave here hungry. The inquiry is confirmed as the appetizer combo arrives with enough lavash bread to carb-load for a marathon. Creamy hummus and masto khiar [yogurt cucumber dip], shirazi salad with diced cucumber and tomato, and light Persian potato set the tone for a menu with just enough familiar territory for everyone to enjoy, and an abundance of potential for adventurous palates to seek new discovery.
Meat is clearly a treasured entity at Persia Lounge, with every dish rich in bold flavor and distinct identity. Take the baghale polo with lamb shank, which you could tear apart with your fingers if you wanted, served in an herbaceous tomato broth that magnifies the flavor profile further. Or the zereshk polo with chicken, a spectacular chicken kabob that seems like it’s been marinating for ages, with saffron rice and the fascinating addition of sour barberry. Then there’s your classic shish kabob, with juicy chunks of char-grilled beef.
If you’re looking for true Halal, this is one of the only shows in town. You’ll also be able to find beers and wines from Lebanon and Armenia, in addition to the labels we all know and love.
Persia Lounge and Restaurant is located at 24328 Main St, Newhall, CA 91321. Open 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. Tue – Thu, 11 a.m. – midnight Fri – Sat and 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. Sun. Closed Mon. Average out-the-door price for split appetizer, entrée and 1 – 2 drinks is ~$40/person. For more information call (661) 259-4100 or visit Persia-Lounge.com.
Build-your-own is hot in the world of Middle Eastern cuisine, and Sajj is a prime example of the trend’s rising prominence. Sajj—named after the convex frying pan used for heating flatbreads—is steadily growing its presence across California, most recently opening in Rancho Santa Margarita. The Chipotle-meets-Middle East concept has seen great success across multiple locations in the Bay Area, and is on pace to do the same in Orange County.
Sajj has tweaked classic Middle Eastern flavors just enough to make them approachable for the masses. Steak and chicken shawarma, falafel, hummus and toum [Lebanese garlic sauce] are key staples, as well as a few fun additions like pomegranate-marinated chicken and roasted cauliflower. Spicy tahini, feta and even guacamole finish off wraps, pitas and bowls for new flavors with comfortingly familiar elements.
A plethora of locally sourced vegetables allows Sajj to become a healthier alternative as well. Fresh lettuce, arugula and kale from San Juan Bautista, tomatoes from Carlsbad, and cabbage from Santa Maria are just a few ingredients that go into Sajj’s veggie selections for wraps, pitas and bowls. Additionally, Sajj prides itself on sourcing meats with no hormones and no antibiotics.
Specialty drinks such as mint lemonade and tamarind add to the Sajj experience, as does the Sajj itself, where wraps are heated before staff build them in front of you.
Sajj Orange County is located at 22245 El Paseo Suite A, Rancho Santa Margarita CA 92688. Open 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. 7 days/week. Avg. out-the-door price for entrée and drink is ~$15/person. For more information call (949)-709-7779 or visit Sajj online.
After debuting its first two West Coast locations to huge crowd, The Halal Guys has opened its doors in Koreatown, Los Angeles. Located in an intimate space on the corner of Wilshire and Mariposa, The Halal Guys brings a Chipotle-like approach to some seriously good Middle Eastern food.
They’re not joking around with their gyros, which boast some of the richest flavor you’ll find in a [now-chain] fast casual spot. That white sauce is famous for a reason too, and there is no question to why nearly everybody orders extra on the side. Don't shrug off their fries either.
The Halal Guys has capitalized on a big open market of making Middle Eastern food approachable, and does so at a very modest price point. Most customers will walk out spending less than $10.
Originally a food cart in New York, Halal Guys quickly evolved as locals flocked to indulge in their now-famous white sauce, gyro sandwiches, and chicken-and-rice platters. The Halal Guys now has plans to expand globally.
Benjamin Brown is a seasoned restaurant writer and hospitality consultant, serving up SoCal's hottest food news and reviews.