About this Business
- Mediterranean, Grill, Afghan, Middle Eastern, American
- Lunch, Dinner
From Our Editors
Laili: A User's Guide
Modern Afghan Cuisine | Farm-to-Table Recipes | Communal Dining Space | Open Kitchen | Idyllic Courtyard
- Starter: maush-awa, a three-bean soup with lentils, split peas, and qurut yogurt that Ann Parker of the Santa Cruz Sentinel called “one of the most delicious soups I've ever tasted”
- Entree: lamb kebab with kabuli rice, mixed vegetables, and three chutneys
- Vegetarian entree: pomegranate eggplant with saffron-infused basmati rice, chard, caramelized onion, and yogurt
- Dessert: cardamom crème brûlée
The Focus: Wafi Amin came to the United States in 1975 to study and learn about the world, but while he was here, the Soviet Union invaded his native Afghanistan. So Amin decided to stay. Years later he opened Laili as both an homage to his homeland's culture and as an exploration of the flavors of the Silk Road—a 5,000-mile trade route between the Mediterranean and China.
Where to Sit: If the weather is accommodating, head outside. Laili is home to a courtyard so secluded that it can only be seen while riding in a helicopter or on Godzilla's shoulder. Amid its white tablecloths, ivy climbs toward light-draped beams, and palm fronds share space with flickering heaters. On rainy days, plant yourself indoors at one of the communal dining tables, where you can brush elbows with a cross-section of downtown.
While You're Waiting
- Turn your eyes toward the open kitchen to watch the chef roll out naan dough with a giant rolling pin.
- Appraise the precious Afghan jewelry that's the subject of a 16-panel photograph in the dining room.
While You're in the Neighborhood
Before: Read up on the Silk Road at Bookshop Santa Cruz, an independent staple since 1966 (1520 Pacific Avenue).
After: Settle in for a nightcap at 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall (110 Walnut Avenue), which has amassed an impressive collection of craft brews and strong Belgian ales.