28 June 2024

Refugee makes comeback to Griffith eatery scene by opening Afghan Kebabistan

| Oliver Jacques
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Ahmad Alizada at kebab shop

Ahmad Alizada is delighted to be offering food to the public again. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

A refugee forced to close Griffith’s first ever Afghani restaurant has made a long-awaited comeback to the town’s eatery scene, opening a kebab shop in the Griffin Plaza shopping mall.

Ahmad Alizada opened the Afghan Friendship Restaurant on Banna Avenue in 2018.

“That was too big for us to run, I think,” he said. “We had to close due to COVID.”

In early 2023, he purchased a shop front at the food court in Griffin Plaza. But it was a long struggle to finally open his business.

“I had to wait for one year for the processes to get permission to open the shop. I had to fix the exhaust system and make sure it all complied,” he said.

“I had to pay over $33,000 in rent for the year in which I couldn’t open the shop.”

He finally launched his new venture in May this year.

“This new place is smaller. We are mostly a kebab place. But we also offer gozleme, which we make at home,” he said.

Gozleme is crispy Turkish flatbreads stuffed with different fillings, which is generally hard to find in rural NSW. At Afghan Kebabistan, you can choose between lamb and feta or chicken and spinach.

Ahmad Alizada with sign

Ahmad Alizada is hoping to expand his menu. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

The store also offers Halal snack packs, which is sliced chicken, lamb or beef mixed in with chips and sauces.

“We also want to do roast chicken in the future,” he said.

Mr Alizada was a member of the persecuted Hazara ethnic group in Afghanistan, where his family was in constant danger, especially when war started in 2001.

He was forced to flee to Iran, where he also faced discrimination, then to Pakistan, before making his way through to Indonesia, where he was locked up for several years. He eventually got to Australia where he stayed in Wagga for a while before settling in Griffith.

His wife and two children joined him from Afghanistan soon after he moved to this town.

He’s very proud of his son Ali, a 16-year-old who has excelled at soccer for Griffith Football Club and been selected for a number of representative teams.

“At the end of this year, Ali might go to England or Paris to play soccer.”

Ali Ali Zada in soccer gear.

Ali Alizada dreams of being the next Messi. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

He’s also been keenly watching his country’s dramatic rise in the world of cricket, in which the senior team made the semi-finals of the T20 World Cup.

“I can’t believe how much we improved.”

Mr Alizada’s first eatery was called the friendship restaurant and he wants to extend that spirit to his new store.

“I welcome everyone in Griffith to come see me.”

The Afghan Kebabistan, located in Griffin Plaza food court, is open every day from 10 am to 8 pm except Monday.

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