Street of Sites and Smells: A tasty visit to ” Khorovats Street”
August 6, 2004

Street of Sites and Smells: A tasty visit to ” Khorovats Street”

By Gayane Lazarian
ArmeniaNow reporter

Like so many steam liners puffing on the sea of good eating, the khorovats
(barbecue) cafés of Proshyan Street have turned the thoroughfare into an
entity all to itself in Yerevan.
>From Baghramian to Paronyan streets, about 50 restaurants line the 1,450
meters of “Barbecue Street”, and send their smoky advertisement of greasy
pork and mutton on an aromatic sells pitch that thousands find irresistible.

”A few years ago there was nothing here except for private houses and
several char grills. Today it turned into one of the richest streets of the
city,” says Yerevan resident Zaven Hambardzumyan.
The Proshyan day begins at night. Not so long ago, the fires of burning
grapevines (the kindling for khorovats) were the street’s beacon. Today,
however, it is a parade of neon, as what started as small family cafes has
turned into big business restaurants competing for attention by announcing
themselves through gaudy displays.
”In afternoons we mainly have rest,” say Hov Hotel employee Mary Sargsyan.
“Through the whole night I stand and wash dishes. It is hard at nights, but
it is harder today to find work.”
Now known as ” Barbecue Street”, the khorovats boom began on Proshyan in the
Zhudex Sargsayn, a geologist by profession, was among the first to start a
café in his home.
”’If there was a place where I could work using my profession I would leave
everything and go there to work. This doesn’t suit me and it is also a
question of ambitions,” Sargsyan says. “There was a time when I had a good
job and I lived very well. But I also realize that people continue not to
appreciate geology and I have to maintain my family.”

Viva Las Proshyan
And what is a necessity for some, becomes an indulgence for others. Ranging
from modest street-side cafes with little more than a box of fire and some
plastic dishes, to elaborate Vegas-like (one is called Ceasar’s Palace)
megaliths, Proshyan attracts tourists as well as locals and is a favorite
address for wedding parties and other celebrations.
Sargsyan, who named his place “At Zhudex” has a clientele built on former
classmates and associates.
Almost everyone in Proshyan Street remember how khorovats first appeared
”There were two garages at the place, where Golden Fork’ restaurant is now
located,” Zhudex recalls. “People began making khorovats in those garages.
They were making thousands of khorovats slabs and those days meat was more
expensive. In the beginning they were only selling, and they almost didn’t
even have places where visitors could sit and eat. Everything began from
that place.”
Next to At Zhudex, Lianna Khalatyan owns ”Hatsarat” (Plentiful Food).
”We began slowly. First we placed one char grill then we constructed a
small room then we built the rest and today I have this small restaurant,”
she says.
Like everybody Lianna also insist that khorovats made in her restaurant
differs from khorovats prepared in other places of Proshyan Street.
All restaurants and snack bars of the street try to remain unique. But in
every restaurant one can find the mandatory khoravats menu: skewers of
roasted meet, complemented by greens, tomatoes, lavash, and plenty of vodka
to wash it down.

It’s all about the meat . . .
”You need several things for making good khorovats – good meat, a person
who can make good basturma and finally a person, who can professionally keep
the meat over the fire,” explains Yegor Arakelyan of Hov Hotel. “Several
hours before starting making khorovats it is necessary to put meat in
basturma (marinade) using only Armenian spices. It should be done on a heavy
fire but try to avoid bursts of flame. You must constantly turn spits with
meat over fire so that it doesn’t burn.”
Arakelyan doesn’t talk about professional subtleties saying that it is his
secret. According to him, the best basturma is the one that came to us from
our ancestors and which consists of onions, salt and pepper.
Zhudex says Armenians usually preferred lamb khorovats but now they mainly
prefer pork.
”Armenians from Diaspora come and say, ‘we came to Proshyan to eat tasty
khorovats.’ Here people mainly order lamb khorovats, real Armenian
khashlama. Also they order khorovats called ”Iki bir”. When they order
”Iki bir” we put meat potatoes and onions on spits,” says director of Hov
Hotel’ Ruzanna Hambaryan.
Prices in Proshyan Street don’t differ too much. Pork chops cost 2000 drams
(about $3.80), tender mater cost 1800 drams (about $3.40) and lamb khorovats
1900 drams (about $3.60). Kibab is cheaper. It costs 500 drams (about 95
The biggest restaurants of the street are Dzoraberd, Caesar’s Palace,
Urartu. But next to them, small stalls serve their peculiar clientele.

. . . and fire
“My business is small and I’m not even interested in a big one,” Lianna
says. “Big restaurants are not standing on the way of the smaller ones, they
have their business, we have ours. Weddings and parties with a lot of people
are done there and if there are a few people they prefer going to a smaller
place. Two or three people will definitely not go there.”
Summer is off season for Proshyan. It is the time, merchants say, when
people prefer going out of the city to do their barbecue dining.
And, new summertime restaurants in the Hrazdan Gorge (twice as expensive)
have taken a bite out of Proshyan. But not enough to devour its colorful
And on Proshyan Street businessmen also know very well the man whose name
the street bears.
“He who doesn’t know the great writer Pertch Proshyan has no right to live
and work on Proshyan Street,” says Ruzanna.