Celebrate Community and Connection in Austin During Ramadan
Soujouk, samosas, and dinner with Rep. Ilhan Omar and Mayor Steve Adler
For the estimated 2% of Austinites who identify as practicing Muslims, Ramadan is one of the holiest months of the year. One of the five pillars of Islam, Ramadan is a time of contemplation and meditation, accompanied by a period of abstaining from food or water between dawn and dusk. Those who celebrate Ramadan use the period as an opportunity to cleanse the soul, engaging empathetically with those less-privileged people for whom deprivation of food and water is not a spiritual practice but a daily reality.
The pre-dawn meal, called sehri or suhoor, will occur around 5am this year, before the sun rises. Families observing Ramadan will gather to pray and eat a meal together before sunrise, when they must stop all consumption of foods and liquids. Suhoor needs to be packed with slow-digesting, nutritionally dense components. Think high-fiber foods like buckwheat porridge, bean dishes like Egyptian ful medames, or even bran muffins. It's also essential to consume high-protein dishes like fried eggs, yogurt, or more of those beans, with healthy fats from butter, oils, or nuts (avocado toast, anyone?), and hydrating foods like fruits and vegetables with high water content to prevent you from dying of thirst throughout the day.
While it's difficult to find a halal restaurant open that early in the morning, there are plenty of great spots that cater, so you can order a couple of party trays from Austin's Habibi, say, or the Halal Bros. the night before. We're big fans of self-catering for suhoor, picking up some of Peace Bakery's legendarily silky hummus and maybe a few house-made pastries to really get the job done. Phoenician Resto Cafe also makes some of the best soujouk in town, a dry-cured lamb-and-beef sausage that they serve in a pan-fried tomato, onion, and pomegranate sauce – the perfect rib-sticking sustenance to power you through the long day to come.
In the evening, after you've white-knuckled it all day by averting your gaze from food trucks, ignoring donuts in the break room, and trying to disregard how nice a cup of coffee during the interminable afternoon meeting sounds, it's time for iftar. This fast-breaking prayer and meal will happen around 8pm this year, once the sun sets. Many Ramadan participants will break their fast with a traditional medjool date, noted by the Prophet Muhammad as being the ideal way to break a Ramadan fast. After the date, the meal proceeds through a series of communally shared, celebratory dishes, usually pretty special, in acknowledgment of the importance of the daily fast.
While there are certainly more than enough halal-friendly restaurants open after sunset – including Mirchi, a popular Indian/Pakistani buffet that stays open late during Ramadan – it's nice to acknowledge the communal nature of the iftar celebration by joining one of the many events hosted by mosques, Muslim community groups, and even churches that gather people together to break their fasts in company. The Nueces Mosque provides meals to students throughout the month of Ramadan, and iftar meetups are scheduled throughout the month by the Austin Muslim Community meetup group. The Front Porch group at All Saints' Episcopal is hosting an interfaith iftar dinner on June 6, with the Austin Mennonite Church hosting a dinner of their own on May 21. And for something really special, Mayor Steve Adler and Rep. Ilhan Omar are pairing up with Emgage Texas for the fourth annual Austin Citywide Iftar Dinner, a celebration of interfaith connections.
So what happens once Ramadan concludes? It's time to party! Eid al-Fitr – the big Ramadan-ending celebration where Muslims gather in mosques to pray and get together in large groups to feast, exchange gifts, and wear their finest clothes – will most likely fall on June 4 this year. The celebration, which can last for three days, begins with the first sighting of the rising crescent moon after sunset, and includes activities such as celebratory praying, shopping, contributing to charity, wearing perfume, and just generally getting down. And then, of course, there's the food. Participants feast on elaborate banquets of deliciously hard-to-prepare food, with plenty of sweets. UZeat, with their menu of kebabs, stews, and delicious halal pastries and dumplings, is the perfect choice for Eid feasting. For a more active option, join Muslim Space for their inclusive Eid celebration at the Main Event fun center on June 4. The event is open to all.
In an increasingly fractious political climate, when our Muslim friends and neighbors are being treated with undeserved suspicion for the crime of practicing their faith, Ramadan is an opportunity for everyone in the Austin community to gather together in solidarity. Whether you attend an interfaith celebration, make a donation to Muslim Space to help a refugee family's kids go bowling, or simply educate yourself about a manner of life that's different than your own, Ramadan is the perfect opportunity for Austinites to stand up for what makes our city great: community, connection, and, of course, a heck of a lot of delicious food.
Ramadan Restaurant Roundup
27 Muslim-friendly eateries with halal meat and holiday treats
Austin's Habibi (Mediterranean; 2 locations; catering)
Phoenician Resto Cafe (Mediterranean)
Arpeggio Grill (Mediterranean)
Teji's (halal Indian)
Pitalicious (halal Lebanese)
Kebabalicious (halal Turkish)
MezzeMe (halal Turkish)
Kismet Cafe (Mediterranean)
Almarah Mediterranean Cuisine (attached hookah bar; open late)
Abo Youssef (halal Mediterranean food truck)
UZeat (halal Uzbek)
Shahi Cafe (Persian)
Shandeez Grill (Persian)
Caspian Grill (Persian)
Peace Bakery (Middle Eastern deli/bakery)
Mirchi (Indian/Pakistani buffet; open late)
Darna (halal Moroccan)
ATX Gyro (halal Mediterranean)
Afghan Halal (Mediterranean)
Shawarma Point (halal Mediterranean)
Halal Bros. (only halal meat)
Halal Corner (only halal meat)
The Halal Gurus (only halal meat)
Abu Omar Halal (only halal meat)
Halal Time (only halal meat)
Halal Wings (May 9 iftar event)