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In a stretch of downtown Oakland where dining options are slim, especially during dinner hours, a small cluster of halal-friendly Middle Eastern restaurants has been a godsend for many hungry souls in search of a satisfying meal at the end of a hard day’s work. And if what you’re in the mood for is grilled meats, then Aria — a cozy, tapestry-bedecked restaurant at the corner of 14th and Harrison streets — is the spot for you. Try the chile-dusted lamb chops, cooked to the diner’s preference, which are flavorful and juicy, especially when ordered medium-rare. And the chapli kebab (thin, jalapeño-laced ground-beef patties) boast crunchy charred edges and an addictive, lingering heat. The restaurant also serves excellent Afghani steamed dumplings: mantu (filled with savory ground beef) and aushak (filled with chopped leeks), which both come topped with yogurt and a spicy, delicious tomato-lentil-and-beef sauce.

— Luke Tsai

Hours: Mon.-Thurs. 11:00 am - 9:00 pm; Fri. & Sat. 12:00 pm - 9:00 pm; Closed on Sundays.

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