Around the World in Houston: Discover Iran

Photo courtesy of Iranian Cultural Foundation Houston

With a labyrinth of cultures represented in every nook and cranny of town, Houston is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in America. To celebrate this world-class melting pot, we’ll be exploring a new region of the globe through a Houston lens each week, from annual festivals and museums to restaurants and cultural experiences. Join the journey with our Around the World in Houston series.

From Norwuz celebrations and language, dance and art programs to restaurants offering tahdig and ghormeh sabzi stew, Iranian and Persian culture can be found throughout the city.

Annual Festivals & Cultural Events

  • Norwuz/Persian New Year Each year, the Iranian Cultural Foundation-Houston invites locals to the Nowruz Festival, celebrating the Iranian/Persian New Year in honor of first day of spring. The 2018 festival will be held at the Bayou City Event Center on March 25.
  • Houston Iranian Film FestivalEstablished by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and Rice Cinema, this annual film festival has been running for 25 years (the 2018 festival took place in January). Screenings take place at both venues and at Asia Society Texas Center, with past films including Asghar Farhadi’s The Salesman in 2017, which went on to win the Academy Award for best foreign language film; and Breath, Iran’s submission for the 2018 awards.

Museums & Cultural Organizations

  • Iranian Cultural Foundation-Houston A non-profit, non-political organization with no religious affiliation, Iranian Culture Foundation-Houston aims to foster the educational, social, and charitable interests of the Iranian-American community, promoting the appreciation of Persian culture. The foundation offers Iranian holiday celebrations, cultural and historical showcases, charitable events, concerts, lectures, and youth and language programs.
  • Museum of Fine Arts, Houston The Art of the Islamic Worlds collection at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston showcases the diverse artistic traditions of Islamic land, with objects ranging from carpets and architectural fragments to ceramics, metalwork, jewelry, scientific instruments, and manuscripts.

Iranian and Persian Food & Drink

Restaurants & Bars

  • Aveseta Persian Grill Located in the Westchase Shopping Center, this neighborhood restaurant and grill combines authentic Persian and Middle Eastern cuisine, with menu items from tadig (golden crusted rice) and gormeh sabzi (green herb stew with beef) to fesenjan (chicken stew flavored with pomegranate and walnuts) and koobideh kabob (char-broiled ground meat). Finish with Persian ice cream kissed with saffron, rose water, cardamom, and almond.
  • Bijan Persian Grill This Hillcroft favorite offers Persian delights like tahdig, gheymeh stew, kabab barg, and faloode, a Persian noodle dessert.
  • Café Caspian Journey through history at this ornate Persian restaurant, with dishes from joojeh kabob (Cornish hen) and mahicheh (lamb shank) with sabzi polo (herbed rice).
  • Darband Shishkabob Another Hillcroft haunt, this casual Persian kabob house has been serving Houstonians since 1986. Get stews, kabobs, and rice alongside a variety of sweets.
  • Delight Hookah Lounge This southwest-side restaurant and lounge offers hookah alongside Persian and Mediterranean fare.
  • Garson Restaurant Opening in 1992, Garson specializes in traditional Persian food, from lamb shank and gheimeh bademjan (Persian-style tomato beef and eggplant stew) to chengeh kabab and mirza ghassemi (grilled eggplant appetizer) to
  • Kasra Persian Grill Tucked away on Westheimer near South Gessner, hit this family-run joint for Persian specialties like saffron chicken with zereshk polo (barberry rice), ghormeh sabzi stew with lamb shank, and filet mignon kabob barg.

Grocery Stores & Bake Shops

  • Avland Bakery This westside bakery offers Persian and Afghani bread, made fresh every morning.
  • Phoenicia Specialty Foods Hit either location of this international specialty food store to find goods, flavors and spices typically found in Iranian and Perisan cuisine, from pomegranate, dates, shirazi figs, and fresh chickpeas to rose water, saffron, tanur bread, and ghormeh sabzi blend.

Language Classes, Education Centers, Groups & Meet-Ups

  • Farsi School of HoustonEstablished in 1992, the Farsi School of Houston welcomes people of all backgrounds to participate in learning the beautiful language of Farsi, offering a wide array of classes for those with a fairly basic Farsi background to those who have none at all. Classes are also offered for adults and children who are at entry-level in Farsi speech.
  • Iranian Cultural Foundation School The Iranian Cultural Foundation-Houston offers youth curriculum and Persian language, drawing, and dancing classes on Sundays, plus a variety of literature and cultural classes such as Poem Night, Shahnameh, History, and Hafez Shenasi. Adult Farsi, art and dance classes, and private music lessons are also available.
  • Iranian Community at University of Houston From Norwuz (spring) and Mehregan (fall) celebrations to potlucks, concerts, and World Cup watch parties, this student community group promotes Iranian (Persian) culture and arts through a lineup of celebratory events.
  • Persian Society at the University of HoustonThis student organization promotes awareness of the Persian/Iranian culture, arts, language, life, and social aspects in a non-political and non-religious manner. Look out for game nights, dinners, mixers and more.
  • Rice Iranian Society An official student organization of Rice University, the Rice Iranian Society supports the Persian culture amongst both Iranian and non-Iranian individuals at Rice and the Houston area. Events include social gatherings, movies, concerts, presentations, and exhibitions.
  • Houston Persian (Farsi) Speakers and Learners This public meetup connects locals who speak Farsi or who are learning and want a relaxed atmosphere to practice, as well as those curious about the Persian culture.

Other Notables

  • Avaye Chakavak EnsembleThis Houston-based ensemble focuses on traditional Iranian music.
  • Pride of Persia Located at the Houston Design Center, this full-service rug company specializes in older and unusual genuine Persian rugs along with high-quality newer rugs from around the world.
Previous articlePlan Your Weekend: February 22 to 25, 2018
Next articleLearn all about the diverse heritage of the West at the American Cowboy Museum
Brooke Viggiano is a food and lifestyle writer residing in Houston. When she's not contributing to publications like 365 Things to Do in Houston, Thrillist Houston and the Houston Press, she's on the hunt for the coolest happenings in the city. You can follow her musings on Twitter @BrookeViggiano .