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After 37 Years, Beloved Afghan Restaurant Khyber Pass Café Suddenly Closes

Owners Emel and Masooda Sherzad didn’t say why they were closing the restaurant but thanked the community for nearly four decades of service

A white plated with lamb meat, basmati rice, chopped tomatoes, onions, and cilantro, with three small bowls of chutney in the background.
Khyber Pass Café first opened on St. Clair Avenue in 1984.
Khyber Pass Café
Justine Jones is the editor of Eater Twin Cities.

After a 37-year tenure in St. Paul, Afghan restaurant Khyber Pass Café — known as much for its tart chutneys and lamb kebabs as its live music nights and celebration of Afghan culture — announced it had closed in a Facebook post on Saturday, November 5, the Pioneer Press first reported.

Owners Emel and Masooda Sherzad didn’t give a reason for the closing but thanked their customers for almost four decades of support. “We thank you for your gracious presence and support over the years, especially during the Covid period, when you sustained us with your take-out orders,” the post reads. “You have made us feel so lucky, appreciating our culture through food and so much more, connecting on a human level.”

It’s hard to understate the vital presence Khyber Pass Café has had in St. Paul’s Mac Groveland neighborhood since 1984. Hosts and chefs of one of the few Afghan restaurants in the Twin Cities metro, the Sherzads were known for their kind hospitality. They also made a point of incorporating Afghan culture and history throughout the restaurant, from the intricate tapestries hung on the walls to the menu, which was based on old family recipes. Hand-ground spices, organic ingredients, and an array of house-made chutneys, from sour cherry to savory cilantro walnut, took the murgh kebabs and sabzi korma to the next level. The Afghan sheer chai, boiled twice with fresh whole milk and cardamom, was something special.

Keep an eye on the cafe’s Facebook page for any further notes from the Sherzads — and for a historic look at Khyber Pass Café’s legacy, check out this archived 1996 restaurant review from the Pioneer Press.