Kabul House to open Evanston location Saturday


Daniel Tian/Daily Senior Staffer

Kabul House’s new Evanston location, 2424 Dempster St. The new space, which opens Saturday night, will seat 120 people and feature an outdoor patio, private dining room and a tea lounge.

Syd Stone, Assistant City Editor

When Akmal Qazi’s parents first opened their Afghan restaurant in Evanston just three days after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, they were concerned about how it would be received.

Nearly 16 years later, Qazi is expanding Kabul House to a bigger location — 2424 Dempster St. — due to the restaurant’s popularity after closing a previous Skokie location. The new Evanston space, which opens Saturday night, will seat 120 people and feature an outdoor patio, private dining room and a tea lounge.

“We really wanted to introduce the culture and hospitality of Afghanistan to Chicagoland,” Qazi said. “Afghans are known to be one of the most hospitable people, and for us it’s gratifying to do that in light of what’s going on in the media. … It goes a far way to show the resilience and beauty of the Afghan culture and people.”

Qazi said his parents emigrated from Afghanistan in 1979 and opened their Evanston restaurant in 2001, but closed it six years later. Qazi said he took over in 2010 and opened a location in downtown Skokie because of his passion for the restaurant business.

Afghan food is unique because it draws on many other cultures, Qazi said.

“We have a very diverse customer base because Afghan food is a mix between all of the different cuisines funneled into one,” he said. “It has a little bit of an Indian touch, and it’s very close to Middle Eastern Mediterranean cuisine.”

Paul Zalmezak, Evanston’s economic development manager, said Kabul House’s new location is a “gateway” into the city’s west side.

He said the restaurant already has a strong following in the Chicago area that will allow non-residents to contribute to the local economy.

“Having a good restaurant is important and sends a strong signal to the marketplace that the west side of Evanston is a good place to open a business,” Zalmezak said. “It’s going to pull in a lot of visitors on this side of town that people generally aren’t as familiar with.”

Aldermen on the Economic Development Committee originally denied a $50,000 storefront modernization grant in February because Kabul House is located in the former building of Chicken and Waffles, which closed in April 2015.

According to city documents, City Council approved a $5,800 facade improvement grant in 2012 to Chicken and Waffles. Under the modernization program’s current rules, a property cannot receive more than one grant within 10 years.

However, the committee worked with Qazi to approve a $50,000 forgivable loan on March 27, Zalmezak said. The loan requires Qazi to “make best efforts to hire Evanstonians” and operate in the space for at least five years, Zalmezak said.

The committee also asked Qazi to work with Evanston’s workplace development partners to identify local candidates for the roughly 20 new jobs the location will create, Zalmezak said.

“The City of Evanston worked with us and really wanted us to be successful, so we got the loan,” Qazi said. “We’re ecstatic to come back to Evanston to grow the business and really just have fun with it.”

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