The most beautiful restaurant experience?
In 2019, my husband and I went to Beirut for the first time. His great-great-grandparents immigrated to the U.S. from Lebanon, but he had never had a chance to visit until then. One of our most memorable afternoons was the day we went to Bourj Hammoud, Beirut’s Armenian neighborhood. We started with some window-shopping and then stopped at a place called Badguer, an Armenian restaurant and cultural center. It felt like being in your grandparents’ house — immediately cozy, inviting, and filled with nostalgia.
We were greeted by Arpi, the founder, and her father, who was in his nineties and was cracking jokes the entire time. We stayed for lunch and I still remember the meal. Spicy potatoes, beef kebab with sour cherries, and soujouk cooked in a spicy, tangy sauce with onions and tomatoes. It was easily one of our favorite meals of the trip. Afterwards, Arpi took us on a tour that ended in a room filled with hundreds of Armenian embroideries. She carefully picked out some of her favorites to show us, filling us in on the history of various designs. The detail of the needlework was incredible.
It was the kind of experience that stays with you in a way that a visit to most four- or five-star restaurants does not. It is also one of my favorite things to do while traveling abroad — spend time in diasporic communities. Regardless of the country or the origin of the migrant community, I somehow feel more at home in these areas. Perhaps this is because of the intensely diverse immigrant community I grew up in on Chicago’s north side. There is a special kind of “home-making” that those in diaspora create. While the people, customs, and flavors may differ, there is a unique familiarity that undeniably resonates across borders.
Yasmine Nasser Diaz
Yasmine Nasser Diaz is a multidisciplinary artist whose practice weaves between culture, class, gender, religion, and family. She uses mixed media collage, immersive installation, fiber etching, and video to juxtapose discordant cultural references and to explore the connections between personal experience and larger social and political structures. Born and raised in Chicago to parents who immigrated from the rural highlands of southern Yemen, her work is often rooted in personal histories and competing cultural values.
Victoria Rosselli Illustrator
Victoria Rosselli is a multidisciplinary creative and consultant based in Brooklyn, New York, operating in media. She specializes in art direction and design for brand, film and editorial.