For Dallas Lifestyle Blogger Maryam Ishtiaq, Good Food is the Ultimate Expression of Hospitality

"I think the best way for us to show our love for people is by cooking up a storm," says Maryam Ishtiaq (@maryamishtiaq). The new mom and former e-commerce manager moved to Dallas with her husband, Nabeel Shah, in November 2019, just months before the coronavirus made gathering with their loved ones impossible. But she's hopeful that she'll be able to play hostess again this spring.

Every year, Maryam, whose family moved to Atlanta from Pakistan when she was 12, observes Eid al-Fitr (an Islamic holiday that marks the end of the monthlong fast of Ramadan). In 2021, it falls in May. "After 30 days of fasting, people want to eat," she says. "There are massive spreads of food, and we spend the day with family to celebrate Ramadan and the ways we gave back to the community during that time." Eid al-Fitr may call for traditional sweets like sheer khurma, but when Maryam and Nabeel are cooking for themselves, they favor dishes that veer decidedly more savory. "We make a lot of hot wings," she says.

Their penchant for fiery foods even prompted them to launch It's Actually Spicy, a recipe-focused YouTube channel, Instagram account, and blog. "Every time we would go out to eat, we would ask the waiter, 'Hey, is this actually spicy? Or is this American spicy?' " says Maryam with a laugh. "We wanted to create food you wouldn't have to wonder about—it's actually spicy." Here, the Dallas creative dishes on her go-to local eateries and favorite beauty staples.

Blogger Maryam Ishtiaq

Wynn Myers; Styling: Meko Davis/Zenobia

What I Appreciate Most About Living in Texas

"Southern hospitality is very real. Here, people stop and smell the roses. When we first moved to Dallas from New York, I had forgotten what it felt like to have conversations with complete strangers. People are so warm and welcoming, and I wouldn't trade that for anything."

How I Approach Style

"I like being comfortable and traditional in the way I dress. Sometimes, I'll try trends, but I often feel like they aren't for me because I prefer being comfortable so much. When I wear Pakistani clothes, they're also very traditional; I enjoy wearing the long gowns called Anarkalis. People wore them decades ago too. There is classic, timeless beauty in them, and I love the way they make me feel."

Blogger Maryam Ishtiaq
“For me, modesty goes far beyond how I dress; it’s the way I carry myself,” Maryam says. Wynn Myers; Styling: Meko Davis/Zenobia

A Tried-and-True Skin-Care Routine

"I like to keep it short and simple. I have a five-product rule with makeup and skin care: I don't use more than five, unless I'm trying something new and need to see how it works. On a regular basis, I go with eye cream, serum, moisturizer, sunscreen, and then maybe a BB cream if I'm feeling fancy. I'm a firm believer that a small amount goes a long way."

The Makeup Finds I Swear By

"There's a duo that I always use: I wear Buxom's Full Force Plumping Lipstick in the Goddess shade (it's the perfect luminous nude color) with MAC Cosmetics' Lip Pencil in Whirl. I've bought about five of those lipsticks so I can have one in each bag. That's how much I love it."

My Favorite Inexpensive Beauty Buy

"When you're in the Instagram influencer space, products are sent to you constantly and you want to try all of them. But I'm the type of girl who sticks to what I know. I always resort back to my L'Oréal True Match foundation from CVS Pharmacy or Walgreens. I love a drugstore find."

Why I Save Bright Colors for Special Occasions

"My closet is heavily black, gray, and white. My day-to-day outfit is literally sweatpants and a black sweatshirt, and I wear it so often that I recently told my husband that I don't want to buy any more black stuff! But there are also some pops of color. For me, those bright statement pieces are a way of expressing myself on my happy days, when I'm celebrating something. They represent the more beautiful parts of my life."

A Taste of Dallas

Six places Maryam recommends for memorable meals

Sabaidee Lao & Thai Street Food
"We fell in love with the cuisine when we went to Thailand for our honeymoon. The food here comes pretty close to that."

Cheesesteak House
"This restaurant is really a hidden gem. It's tucked into a strip mall near the Bishop Arts District."

Lucky's Hot Chicken
"Nabeel found this spot when he was craving that Nashville classic, and man, they deliver on the spice level! The Big Lou Sandwichis my favorite."

"For people who don't like making decisions, they have a server's tastings option. If you give them your budget, they'll bring dishes based on your taste."

Tacos La Banqueta
"It's a hole-in-the-wall near a gas station. If you're a fan of authentic street-style tacos, this is the place to check out. The steak option here is amazing."

Angry Dog
"Love hot wings with some extra heat? You must try Angry Dog, which is in the heart of Deep Ellum."

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