Khalil Numan’s family fled his native region in 1988 when Saddam Hussein’s regime ruled over the area (Northern Iraq). The family lived in a Turkish refugee camp for three and half years before coming to the United States in 1991. Though his family resettled first to Texas when Khalil was twenty-one years old, and they later moved to Nashville where they knew friends from their village in Kurdistan.
He opened Grassmere Grill and Kabob in 2006. The unassuming restaurant, tucked behind tinted window, sits in the heart of Nashville’s Little Kurdistan. There are no signs or major landmark to announce the area – or that Nashville – has the largest Kurdish population in the United States. But across the strip mall parking lot from his restaurant, you might find worshipers headed into the Salahadeen Center mosque or home cooks picking up rice and lentils or flatbread from the bakery at the nearby Azadi Market.
Inside Khalil’s restaurant is an array of colors from the buffet – golden rice and lentil soup, kibbeh kebobs, chicken thighs coated in spices and crisp salad greens, tabblouleh and dolmeh. He learned to cook many of these dishes from his mother when he was twelve years old back in Kurdistan.
Date of interview:
May 26, 2016
Emily B. Hall