Hamishe Bahrami, owner of Cafe Natasha’s, is retiring on April 30 and subsequently, the Persian restaurant will also close. But the adjoining Gin Room, owned by Bahrami’s daughter Natasha, will remain open and take on a new concept.
“It was the best time in my life to be in this business because of my customers because I get to know so many fantastic people. St. Louisans are one of the most supportive, kind, open-minded, educated, intelligent people I’ve known,” Hamishe said.
She moved from Iran to New York in the 1970s and never expected to get into the restaurant industry. The late Behshid Bahrami moved to St. Louis from Iran a few years prior to Hamishe’s move to New York. The two began a courtship and were married soon after Hamishe moved to St. Louis.
Behshid worked as a geologist but was laid off just 20 days before Natasha was born. Due to the Iran hostage crisis at the time, it was hard for Behshid to find work. So the couple opened their first restaurant, The Little Kitchen, in 1983.
“We had no choice. It was a hard time for us,” Hamishe said.
The Little Kitchen was located in the Paul Brown Building and sold American cuisine. Ten years later, the Bahramis opened their first Cafe Natasha’s location on Delmar. The family ran the two restaurants simultaneously for two years, but due to the popularity of Cafe Natasha’s, they decided to close The Little Kitchen in 1995.
The Cafe Natasha’s location at 3200 South Grand Boulevard was opened in 2001. The Delmar location was closed in 2003.
“If it wasn’t for dad, we would have never gotten into the restaurant business. He had this crazy flavor retention. He could make something that he remembered from 10-15 years ago and by memory, flavory memory, he could bring that to life,” Natasha said.
She got involved in her family’s business at 13, but she said she “really dug [her] heels in at around 16 to 18.”
Natasha never lost her love for the restaurant industry even as she forged her own path and got her master’s degree.
“Even though I was in DC for three years doing international relations work – sanctions, big thing for me – but just my heart was in the industry,” Natasha said. ” I convinced my parents to allow me to renovate the 30-year-old restaurant at that time and put some big money back into it and do this crazy concept of opening a gin bar in a beer and bourbon town.”
The Gin Room opened in 2014, and now the family is looking forward to their new concept.
“We feel it will fit perfectly on South Grand,” Natasha said. “We hope that our forevers will try us out on what we’re doing, but it’s not Middle Eastern cuisine, it’s not Persian cuisine, but we do promise we’re putting our entire passion that we’ve done for the past 40 years into this new concept.”
Hamishe couldn’t be prouder of her daughter, and said, “I’m happy for her. She knows what she’s doing.”
More details of the new concept will be released at a later date.