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Zareen’s is expanding its Palo Alto space and opening in a new Peninsula city

Uploaded: Aug 9, 2023

The Grilled Chicken Boti Meal at Zareen's. Photo by Natalia Nazarova.

By Julia Brown

The Peninsula-based Indian Pakistani eatery chain Zareen’s is more than doubling its Palo Alto space and opening a fourth location in downtown Sunnyvale next year.

Zareen Khan confirmed Tuesday that she is taking over the lease for the now-closed Starbucks space on California Avenue to expand her Palo Alto restaurant and turn it into the flagship location. The former Starbucks is bigger than the space Zareen’s currently occupies and will allow the eatery to more than double its square footage, from 1,600 square feet to 3,500.

“When I found out they were closing, our management approached me to see if I'd be interested, and of course I was because we’re so restricted there with what we do so it was perfect timing for us,” Khan said. “We don’t want our food to take too long; we’re working on making it a really efficient kitchen so takeout and dine in orders go fast.”

Khan is creating a design that enables the restaurant to have a fully functional kitchen on the Starbucks side, with expanded seating in the current Zareen’s space. She’s hoping to double available inside seating and add room for around 15 more customers outside.

Once the Starbucks space is operational as a restaurant, which Khan anticipates will take six to eight months, the current Zareen’s space will close for a couple of days to allow workers to remove the wall separating the interiors, Khan said.

Khan added that the renovated Zareen’s will be “very organic looking, some bohemian but very modern looking too.”

“We want our Stanford students to feel comfortable there and like to hang out,” she said, adding that she wants the space to be “trendy, but no artificial flowers.”

“Our place will be Instagrammable without the plastic,” she said.

One of the reasons Khan decided to expand her Palo Alto eatery is the potential she sees for California Avenue to become a “restaurant row.” While vacancies have been abundant on California Avenue since the pandemic began, Khan points to efforts the city of Palo Alto has made to revive the corridor with expanded outdoor seating, artwork, decorative lights and the third Thursdays live music program that launched in the spring.

“One of the reasons I decided to expand the footprint there is that I really believe in the potential for California Avenue,” she said. “We had some opportunities on University Avenue too, but I personally like the quaintness of Cal Ave. It was always a sleepy downtown, but now the city’s effort is helping revive that.”

Zareen’s opened its first location in Mountain View in 2014, followed by Palo Alto in 2016 and Redwood City in 2020. Khan said they are in contract for a fourth location on Murphy Avenue in downtown Sunnyvale that will need renovations since it’s not currently a restaurant. She hopes it will open in early to mid 2024 and says her son will join the family business and help manage that location.

“We might have specials, but the food will be more casual,” she said. “It’s a small place; we want to make sure our food comes out fast, and the more complicated the menu the longer it takes.”

As work gets underway this year on Zareen’s Palo Alto and Sunnyvale locations, she and her husband Umair Khan are also working on their cookbook, which she hopes will be published in time for International Women’s Day on March 8.

Zareen’s, 365 S. California Ave., Palo Alto, 650-562-8700; 1477 Plymouth St., Mountain View, 650-628-6100; 2039 Broadway, Redwood City, 650-747-6400; Instagram: @zareensrestaurant.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by 4good, a resident of Stanford,
on Aug 9, 2023 at 6:26 pm

4good is a registered user.

This is awesome news! Our family loves Zareen's on Cal Ave.

Posted by Charles, a resident of Evergreen Park,
on Aug 9, 2023 at 7:13 pm

Charles is a registered user.

In the article the owner states: "She's hoping to double available inside seating and add room for around 15 more customers outside, where there's currently seating for roughly 20-25"

20-25? There are tables & chairs for about 130 people outside, in front of Zareen's. It's a mess.

Posted by panative, a resident of Midtown,
on Aug 9, 2023 at 7:35 pm

panative is a registered user.

I love everything about this - our number one face restaurant in Palo Alto.

Posted by panative, a resident of Midtown,
on Aug 9, 2023 at 7:36 pm

panative is a registered user.

LOL meant to type FAVE restaurant!

Posted by Steve O, a resident of Mayfield,
on Aug 9, 2023 at 10:46 pm

Steve O is a registered user.

That's great news for them
I do have one question, why is the owner so anti retail. Is there not enough restaurants on California Ave.T
Seems that maybe some more retail would liven up the street during the daytime hours. It's usually pretty quiet on the street until about 5pm.

Posted by Bart Anderson, a resident of Mayfield,
on Aug 9, 2023 at 11:13 pm

Bart Anderson is a registered user.

Zareen has my undying loyalty. She was very kind to my late wife when we came in.
And we loved the food!

Posted by Bystander, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Aug 10, 2023 at 8:04 am

Bystander is a registered user.

Why haven't you written about the Midtown restaurants in your local food blog? Mikes, Bills, Sanchos, Coma Esta, could all have done with some food blogging to help put them on the map!

Posted by Palo Alto Resident, a resident of Downtown North,
on Aug 10, 2023 at 10:25 am

Palo Alto Resident is a registered user.

We eat there at least once a week; one of our daughters wants them to cater her wedding! The food is truly delicious (and reasonably priced) and the atmosphere is casual and vibrant. They have become one of the anchors of Cal Ave, and I hope will stay for a long, long time.

Posted by Allison, a resident of Midtown,
on Aug 10, 2023 at 10:37 am

Allison is a registered user.

We love Zareens. And every time I see the huge crowd sitting outside enjoying her food, it makes me smile!

Posted by Nancy Peterson, a resident of South of Midtown,
on Aug 10, 2023 at 10:56 am

Nancy Peterson is a registered user.

Excellent news. I'm grateful that Zareen's is expanding its investment in Cal Ave.

Posted by What Will They Do Next, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Aug 10, 2023 at 12:09 pm

What Will They Do Next is a registered user.

Well deserved opportunity. Always great healthy food and reasonably priced.

Posted by What Will They Do Next, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Aug 10, 2023 at 12:16 pm

What Will They Do Next is a registered user.

I agree that Midtown should get some props. Como Esta and Sancho's provide outstanding Mexican food. The best carnitas ever from Como Esta and likewise for the fried fish tacos at Sancho's. Sadly, I don't think Mike's will survive the rent debacle and Phil's, Bills, Palo Alto Wine and Spirits and the dry cleaner at the very least may not be able to reopen for a very long time and worse, may not be around at all if the property owner decides to re-develop.

Posted by Mayfield Forever, a resident of Midtown,
on Aug 10, 2023 at 12:32 pm

Mayfield Forever is a registered user.

This is such welcome news. Zareen's is amazing as a lunch option or casual dinner. Love the idea of them expanding their space.

Posted by Max Shoenfeld, a resident of Community Center,
on Aug 14, 2023 at 12:54 pm

Max Shoenfeld is a registered user.

Terrific menu offerings at Zareen's.

Posted by Jesse Theron, a resident of Mountain View,
on Aug 14, 2023 at 2:54 pm

Jesse Theron is a registered user.

"Why haven't you written about the Midtown restaurants in your local food blog?"

^ No one makes a special trip from out of town just to eat in Midtown.

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