A new Herndon family-owned Pakistani breakfast restaurant may be the only one of its kind in Virginia and, perhaps, even the country, according to its co-owner.
Desi Breakfast Club on 3065 Centreville Road might just be the only diner that serves exclusively Pakistani breakfast all day, says co-owner Malik Waleed Ahmad.
“I have customers who come in, and they’re like ‘we go to Dubai and the Middle East and there’s breakfast places, but we’ve been looking here and there’s nothing,'” said Ahmad, who owns the restaurant with his father Zaheer Ahmed and brother Fahad Qadeer.
They also own Charcoal Chicken in Chantilly. After closing late at night, they often would go in search of breakfast, and there would only be one option: the IHOP next door.
“We saw the demand for a Pakistani restaurant to do breakfast,” Ahmad said. “And on weekends, brunch.”
They sensed a particularly acute need for this specific niche to be filled in the Town of Herndon, which has a population that’s about 18.5% Asian, as of 2019, with a growing number of residents from the South Asian subcontinent.
“Indian, Pakistani, Nepali, Bangladeshi…our politics, our cultures, they all may divide us,” Ahmad said. “But food is one thing that unites us all. And we all eat the same food.”
He says because word has been getting around the local community, the restaurant is constantly crowded on weekends with people traveling from across the region to eat there.
In fact, Desi Breakfast Club is currently reservations-only on Saturdays and Sundays.
“The star of the show is Halwah Puri,” Ahmad said, referring to a dish that consists of fry bread, halwah, spiced potatoes, and chickpeas. “It’s the most popular dish. It outsells everything else by a hundred percent.”
All the recipes are ones his father brought from Pakistan when the whole family moved to Herndon 18 years ago. Cooking was always his father’s “hobby,” but, in 2010, he told his family he wanted to open a restaurant. That’s when Charcoal Chicken was born.
“In the beginning, when we first came to America, the restaurant was a means to an end,” Ahmad said. “But it’s a dream come true…We are building something.”
Ahmad, now 28, has lived in Herndon for nearly two decades. He says he grew up eating all of the dishes being served at Desi Breakfast Club, something that he likely has in common with others.
“Back home, every mom [and dad] makes the best food,” he said. “These are my family’s recipes, but I’m sure there are other people who eat this exact same food. They just make it a little differently in their home.”
Every Monday, the restaurant is closed so the family can mix spices and prepare food together. His father helps his brother prepare and manage the kitchen, while Ahmad works in front of the house, interacting with customers.
“It’s rewarding…I get to meet new people every single day. I get to feed people and just see happy faces,” he said. “I even put in 12, 13 hours daily, but I don’t get tired.”
Ahmad tells Reston Now that he encourages everyone to come by, regardless of whether they’ve tried Pakistani breakfast food before, so he can share a little piece of who he is with others.
“When you come eat with us, it’s like you’re eating at home. Our home,” Ahmad said. “I’m happy that all the food that I ate growing up and enjoyed, I get to share with everyone and my community.”
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