Afghan restaurant finds a home in Dinkytown

by Matt Chock

Students that frequent the Dinkytown area have yet another option to satisfy their daily hunger in a new restaurant featuring a combination of Middle Eastern, Afghani and American cuisines.
Da Afghan Express arrived in October, broadening the culture of the East Bank area.
Laila Lakanwal and her husband, Ghafer, recently opened the restaurant on the corner of Fourth Street and 14th Avenue Southeast in the old Crazy Carrot building.
Lakanwal’s enthusiasm and commitment to customer satisfaction can be seen throughout the restaurant.
After three months of renovations, Da Afghan Express has a new kitchen and newly painted maroon walls. The walls are covered with tapestry rugs, giving the restaurant the aura of the owners’ Afghanistan heritage.
The restaurant is fashioned after Bloomington’s Da Afghan Restaurant, which the Lakanwals have run for the past 14 years.
The couple started this new venture as a way to market their food to a new location and type of customer. The Dinkytown area and its diverse student population fit perfectly.
The Lakanwals said they hope to accomodate the tastes of those who are looking to experience a different culture, while still offering food items for the less adventuresome.
Da Afghan Express features a diverse menu with everything from lamb burgers and beef kabobs to gyros and chicken sandwiches.
“I like making food that people enjoy, and when I have customers come and thank me after a meal, it makes me very happy,” said Laila.
She said their restaurant also offers quick, inexpensive meals to students who don’t have a lot of extra money to spend.
Dishes typically range between $3 and $6.
With its dine-in or take-out menu, the restaurant allows students to grab something to eat while traveling to and from class.
“It should do well, because it’s a type of cuisine Dinkytown doesn’t have yet,” said Dan Zielske, president of the Dinkytown Business Association.
Zielske said that the restaurant’s location in the heart of Dinkytown — known for its steady stream of traffic — will help its initial success.
Tim Murphy, a philosophy graduate student, stopped in on his way home from the University to try the food and found it “excellent.”
With their varied food items and committment to customer satisfaction, the Lakanwals said they hope their new business venture will be a success.