Malika is now open in Mount Pleasant Towne Center | @fiaforeverstudios

1333 Theater Dr. 
Mount Pleasant

Charleston is hungry for Pakistani cuisine — it’s undeniable after the City Paper visited Malika Aug. 26 for its soft opening, as a crowd of social-distanced supporters could hardly wait to get inside the door to sample chef and co-owner Maryam Ghaznavi’s samosa chaat, chicken biryani, aloo tikki roll and other Pakistani street food. 

“Street food is an essential part of everyday life in Pakistan,” Ghaznavi said in a press release. “We all turn to the ever creative, never disappointing foods sold by hard working vendors along the busy street sides.” 

Ghaznavi, who owns Malika with her husband Raheel Gauba, has yet to swing the doors open to her downtown flagship restaurant Ma’am Saab, but for now, peninsula residents can venture out to Mount Pleasant Towne Center for her authentic Pakistani plates. We’ll gladly make the trip. 

Here are four things you need to know about Malika, which opened Aug. 28. 

The Backstory 

Ghaznavi, a former East Cooper Montessori Charter School teacher, hosted her first Ma’am Saab pop-up in August 2019, later landing a spot in the now-closed exploratory food court Workshop. In January, the couple announced they would open a Ma’am Saab brick-and-mortar location in the Meeting Street space previously occupied by Jestine’s Kitchen. 

Months later, Ghaznavi and Gauba decided to also open Malika, which means “Queen” in the Urdu language. The restaurant brings a slightly different concept and menu, offering a “canteen-style” take on Pakistani street food. 

Ghaznavi | Fia Forever Studios

“I’ve had so much fun curating a menu for Malika, bringing some of our childhood street favorites like shami bun and shakkar kandi chaat, while pairing them with more popular comfort recipes like chicken biryani and chicken tikka roll,” Ghaznavi told the City Paper. “Our goal is for Charlestonians to get accustomed to vibrant flavors of Pakistani cuisine in a way that becomes their go-to food and for Malika to be their happy place.” 

Space Reimagined

What was once a Qdoba Mexican Grill has been transformed into a vibrant, inviting atmosphere with homey decor. 

The “Malika Gallery” currently features photos by Faisal Iqbal | Fia Forever Studios

On the street-facing wall to the right of the cash register and open kitchen, you’ll find a mural, which Ghaznavi and Gauba says is “a depiction of ‘Lollywood,’ the Urdu and Punjabi-language film industry of Pakistani cinema, based in Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan.” The perpendicular wall to its right is home to the “Malika Gallery,” an ever-changing selection of art and photos from local Pakistani creatives. Right now, the gallery features photos by Faisal Iqbal. 

What to Order 

Ghaznavi was never formally trained, but cooking has always been a large part of her life at home. She brings this ethos to Malika, where she serves “dishes that deliver on the authentic and complex flavors from the streets and canteens of Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar and beyond.” 

Malika’s cuisine offers a “canteen-style” take on Pakistani street food | Fia Forever Studios

The counter-service restaurant’s menu is split into two main parts: snacks and mains. For snacks, don’t miss the samosa chaat, a crispy fried potato pocket resting on lahori cholay, or chickpea curry. The silky sauce brings the savory samosa to life, adding just enough kick to have you reaching for your mango lassi to turn down the heat.   

Entrees consist of rice-based plates like chicken biryani — a crossover from Ma’am Saab’s menu — wraps and sandwiches. For a true taste of Malika, check out the beef shami bun, a chili-spiced beef and lentil patty stuffed inside a buttery brioche bun with onions, tomatoes and chutney. Spoiler alert: The sandwich can get a little messy, but that’s all part of the fun. 

Bring the kids — and your vegetarian friends 

Malika has plenty of vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options — in fact, Ghaznavi holds the meat on the entire “street snacks” portion of the menu. Make sure you bring the kiddos, too, as Malika boasts a special menu with a chicken rice plate and “cheesewalla naan”  — a handheld that mimics a quesadilla, with cheesy naan replacing the griddled tortilla. 

Malika is open Tuesday-Friday from 4-9 p.m., Saturday from 12-9 p.m. and Sunday from 12-7 p.m. For more information, visit

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