Maryam Ghaznavi’s Pakistani home cooking finds a brick and mortar in the former Jestine’s Kitchen
(Left) The bar serves up creative cocktails; (Right) A tender goat stew with tomatoes and ginger is a menu highlight.
Ever since Charlestonians tasted Maryam Ghaznavi’s Pakistani home cooking at sold-out pop-ups at The Daily back in 2019, fans have pined for a brick and mortar. Four years, one pandemic, and countless building permits later, the wait is over. After renovating the former Jestine’s Kitchen downtown, Ma’am Saab opened its doors in May. Aside from sharing the same Meeting Street address, the restaurant couldn’t be further from its homespun predecessor. Moorish-style arches, exposed brick, black lace curtains, and fuschia-tinted track lighting make for dining decor unlike any other in town. It’s clear Ghaznavi and her co-owner husband Raheel Gauba consider Ma’am Saab an extension of their personal style and warm hospitality.
Ditto for the attentive service and concise menu. Dishes arrive in pretty copper vessels, encouraging sharing among the table. Salty and savory starters like the aubergine pakora chaat—eggplant fritters with pomegranate seeds and mint chutney—cry out for one of the bar’s imaginative cocktails. Maybe a Karachi Wala, a chai-vodka number that drinks like a White Russian, or the rose, tequila, and mezcal Rang-e-bahar? (Beer and wine lovers will find solid options for pairing with the bold flavors as well.)
Main plates are carefully curated, from kebabs and biryani to a flavorful rendition of butter chicken and the superstar of the menu, charsi karahi, a succulent stew of goat, tomatoes, and ginger. Overall, the spice level seems perfectly calibrated, with buttery naan, yogurt, and a slate of chutneys to counter any excess heat. And with a menu annotated as to which dishes are—or can be modified to be—vegan, gluten-free, or dairy-free, Ma’am Saab is an ideal spot for parties with various dietary restrictions. These days, what could be more welcoming than that.
251 Meeting St.
Tuesday-Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., 5-10 p.m. (11 p.m. on Friday & Saturday)
(843) 259-2660; maamsaabchs.com