The Multitasking Chef: Benny’s Grill L.A. is a Solo Restaurant Operation

Benny is a one-man show, seamlessly transitioning between roles as chef, waiter, cashier and busboy.
May 16, 2024

A few days after Benny Azizi opened his under-the-sky restaurant, Benny’s Grill L.A., he found himself engrossed in the bustle of grilling chicken kabobs and vegetable skewers, taking orders and packaging rice and ground beef kabobs into to-go Styrofoam containers. In this bustling scene, Benny is a one-man show, seamlessly transitioning between roles as chef, waiter, cashier and busboy.

Even his kashrut supervisor (OU) pitches in, assisting with the setup of the pop-up canopy tent and folding tables draped with plastic coverings. The setting? The Santa Monica Glatt Kosher Market parking lot, a longstanding establishment owned by Benny’s father, Joseph Azizi and his brother Bob Azizi, for approximately 20 years.

Up until 6:30 p.m., the location buzzes with activity as cars are parked at every spot in the lot, filled with eager buyers, many of whom are Iranians drawn to the market’s diverse array of Persian food and ingredients. However, as evening descends, Benny begins the remarkable transformation of one section of the parking lot into an authentic Persian restaurant—or, to be more precise, a vibrant street food market.

Benny’s roots in this market run deep, tracing back to its original location a mile down the street before it relocated to its current spot at 11540 Santa Monica Blvd, nestled in an area renowned for its vibrant Persian community. The burgeoning clientele prompted the owner to seek out a larger space, leading them to this bustling location.

Azizi, reminiscing as he tends to the sizzling kabobs, recounts his childhood spent in the market: “I started working here as a child, maybe around 8 or 9 years old, helping my dad.” His passion for cooking ignited early, fueled by the tantalizing scents of spices and meats wafting through the air.

After spending three years in Yeshiva Lev Aharon in Jerusalem, Azizi returned to Los Angeles 12 years ago, dedicating himself to the art of kabob preparation and cooking on Sundays. The market had been serving Persian-style kabobs for the past 15 years, inspiring Benny to expand operations to a five-day schedule, offering an extensive menu to cater to both loyal patrons and passersby.

“My food is my love and passion.” – Benny Azizi

“My food is my love and passion,” Azizi said, emphasizing his commitment to using only the finest ingredients. “From fresh garlic to premium saffron, I spare no effort in delivering authentic ancient Iranian flavors at a reasonable price. It’s my mission to offer the community the highest quality possible.”

I opt for the Beef Soltani—a combination of steak shish kebab and ground beef kebab served with white rice, grilled tomato, pickled vegetables, Lavash bread and a petite garden salad. The total comes to $30 before tax. Other items on the menu are less pricey and range between $12.99 for a ground beef kabob and up to $38.99 for a boneless rib eye steak.

Though tables and plastic chairs are available, most customers prefer to grab their meals to go.

It’s 7:30 p.m., and some customers have already ordered kabobs to go, with one phone order placed. While most customers are Iranians, there are also locals and office workers nearby. “They can smell it from a mile away,” said Azizi. “They simply can’t resist the aroma.”

The restaurant owner, married and father of three, takes charge of cooking at home and thoroughly enjoys it. “I love cooking, and my family enjoys my food,” he said.

Running a restaurant single-handedly, with occasional assistance from his father nearby, is no small feat. He deftly navigates between the grill, a large pot of rice, darting into the market to fetch pre-cut vegetables he prepared earlier, then back outside to tend to the kabobs on the grill. Just watching him running back and forth like that is exhausting.

It’s a tad chilly outside, but with spring around the corner, Azizi anticipates customers will enjoy their meals outdoors once the temperatures warm up.

The outdoor restaurant is open between Sunday-Thursday from 6:30 p.m.-11:30 p.m.

Benny’s Grill L.A

11540 Santa Monica Blvd.

(310) 256-5873

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