Afghan flavors via the Bay Area

A new restaurant opens up in North Highlands with an experienced cook

Illustration by Mark Stivers

Translation, “Worth a drive”: It’s exciting to see an Afghan restaurant venture far beyond kebabs.

Now that Aria-Afghan Restaurant opened in late summer in North Highlands (5601 Watt Avenue, Suite 2), Sacramentans can sample Aash ($4.99)—a traditional noodle soup with garbanzo beans and topped with yogurt and mint—as well as the rarely seen Pacha ($10.99)—cow feet cooked in a wheat broth.

Co-owner and chef Sayed Wasi is originally from Afghanistan, but he learned to cook in Northern California, most notably at De Afghanan Cuisine in Fremont—arguably the best Afghan restaurant in the Bay Area. He says he’s infused his menus with those lessons and similar recipes to De Afghanan, so he’s hoping to rise above his few competitors in the area.

“That’s why I think ours is better,” Wasi says.

Back in Afghanistan, Wasi learned about food through eating more than cooking; he says he worked as a translator for the U.S. military. “It was good!” he reassures me, saying he enjoyed helping people. Off the battlefield, Wasi worked in an office translating documents related to U.S. reconstruction efforts, building infrastructure such as schools and roads.

But then danger began encroaching on office workers, too, and Wasi says he decided to move stateside. He tried working as an Uber and Lyft driver, but didn’t like that so much because riders having a bad day would take it out on him, he says. As it turns out, customers tend to be more agreeable when they’re eating.

“When they like the food it gives you energy, and it makes me real happy,” he says.

Surrounded by a Korean market and gift shop, as well as a Russian grocery, Aria Afghan opened in North Highlands strategically.

“When there is a diversity, I like that kind of place—and people will come and enjoy that kind of place,” Wasi says.

Good bakers: The sequel to the beloved Filipino bakery Starbread opened in Roseville in August under the same owners. BAD Bakers (1420 E. Roseville Parkway, Suite 180) is a cutesy storefront covered in cartoonish baking icons and pink design details. The doughnuts, however, are fierce like the business name (an acronym of Bread And Doughnuts). Confections in all-caps like “SHORTY CAKE,” “COOKIE KRAVING” and “UNICORN CLOUDS” come with messy-yet-artful dustings of sugary crumbs. Don’t worry: The signature Spanish rolls are there, too.

Jimboy No. 8: Hometown chain Jimboy’s Tacos recently opened its eighth Sacramento location at 4245 Marconi Avenue in Marconi Square. Those greasy beef tacos with the telltale sprinkling of Parmesan will available 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.