Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Royal Chicken & Kebab is Amherst’s latest sensation

The restaurant is open until 12 a.m. on weekdays and 2 a.m. on weekends
Kalina Kornacki

Royal Chicken & Kebab is the latest restaurant to hit the Amherst food scene. Located on Boltwood Walk next to Bueno y Sano, the business is popular amongst Amherst students and locals alike for their late-night options and signature kebab platters.

Described as a “Mediterranean style with an American twist,” owner and manager Rafi Gholam opened the restaurant in Nov. 2023 and said that business has only been flourishing, with their sales increasing each day. They are open from 11 a.m. to 12 a.m. Monday through Wednesday and till 2 a.m. Thursday through Sunday. The store’s busiest hours are during the night, according to Gholam.

Currently, their best-sellers include the gyro platters, the smash burgers, and the kebabs. He recommends the “mixed platter” to anyone trying it out for the first time, as it’s his “go-to and is really fast and quick [to make.]” The mixed platter, priced at $9.99, is a combination of chicken, beef and falafel served with rice, salad and pita bread.

Gholam has been in the restaurant business ever since he was a child. After working in family restaurants his entire life, he decided last year that he was ready to start his own business and bring a new concept to Amherst.

“This is what I love to eat, so I figured to do something I love to do or I love to eat so I can share it with everyone else,” Gholam said.

He had the space for a year, but it took a few months to get the concept running.

“The journey, to be honest with you, is kinda bumpy,” Gholam said. “Getting the space, getting everything ready, construction, and then once that was done, figuring out the menu, finalizing the menu, [it] was a lot.”

Their current challenges are with staffing. Due to the large crowds, the team has been finding it difficult to keep up with the demand. Gholam is currently hiring new employees.

“Honestly, it’s a great feeling [and] a good problem to have, because without you guys [the customers] I probably wouldn’t be standing here, so I appreciate everybody that’s been supporting us through the journey,” Gholam explained.

For Soraia Monteiro, a junior chemical engineering major, the chicken kebab platter ($13.99) is a favorite. Monteiro goes there every other night for the dish and usually orders late at 1:30 a.m. “I would definitely recommend it to others, especially when you go in-person. They’re so kind, they even give you [Pita] bread and the plate comes full,” Monteiro said.

She goes there often since it’s open late at night and she finds it a more balanced meal compared to other fast food in the area.

Aside from students, the restaurant is popular amongst the Muslim population since it is 100 percent Halal certified. During the month of Ramadan, the business saw an influx of Muslim customers in the evening to break their fast.

“Our engagement has been very great, we’ve met a lot of business owners, a lot of students, a lot of people and locals in town, [and we’ve] built a lot of one-on-one relationships like that,” Gholam said.

From fried Oreos and cheesecake, to mozzarella sticks and popcorn chicken, the business’ expansive American-Mediterranean menu has garnered a large following from the local students. Joana Castillo, a sophomore legal studies major, was hooked onto their three-piece chicken tenders (hot).

“[The hot chicken tenders] were easily some of the best buffalo tenders I’ve ever had,” Castillo said. “The chicken was juicy and well-cooked, and the hot sauce was spicy but not enough to be overwhelming.”

Despite a late-night rush, the employees handed out orders quickly and efficiently, she explained. The restaurant’s casual and relaxing atmosphere (designed by Gholam’s sister) made Castillo’s dining experience “much more enjoyable.”  She recommends the food spot to “anyone looking for great food and a good time.”

“My goal is planning on expanding and growing the business in the near future as a franchise, so that’s the direction I’m [moving] towards,” Gholam said.

Mahidhar Sai Lakkavaram can be reached at [email protected] and followed on X @Mahidhar_sl. Kalina Kornacki can be reached at [email protected].

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