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Great Food, Fans And Innovation Have South Grand Mainstay Cafe Natasha’s Pressing On

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William Brown
Natasha Bahrami prepares a drink behind the bar at the Gin Room on South Grand in St. Louis.

After all that 2020 threw at local restaurants, Natasha Bahrami and her mother, Hamishe Bahrami, were already in survival mode earlier this year when another disaster struck: In February, a pipe burst in the apartment above their enduring family business on South Grand, flooding Cafe Natasha’s.

On top of all the shutdowns and restrictions of the past year and having to find ways to adapt, that pipe might have been the last straw for other struggling restaurants. But in this case, the local community quickly came to the Bahramis’ aid.

“It’s always the St. Louis community,” Natasha Bahrami said Tuesday on St. Louis on the Air, “our guests who have become our family, who support us in that way and have allowed us to survive the 35 years we’ve been here. And we cannot thank them enough.”

The strong bond between Cafe Natasha’s and its enthusiastic fans is one that’s been forged for decades, and Bahrami sees that support as a testament to her mother’s continuing influence in its kitchen as well as a commitment to innovation.

“In 2014 we added the Gin Room into Cafe Natasha's, a gin-centric bar program, and most recently we’ve added a natural wine program into our beverage program,” Bahrami explained.

Over the course of the seven years since first launching the Gin Room, Bahrami has continued to make strides with that spirit.

In late February, she became the first American to be inducted into the Gin Hall of Fame. Bahrami credits growing up in her parents’ restaurant with helping her understand “deeper nuances, whether it’s within food or in spirits” — and ultimately leading her to identify her passion for gin.

She’s proud of how she and other Midwesterners are growing enthusiasm for the spirit in the U.S.

“When I started the Gin Room,” Bahrami said, “we had two Missouri gin distilleries. … We now [in the state] have over 15 gin distilleries. That is a massive explosion.”

And for Bahrami, it’s fueling her excitement to stay invested in the industry, and the city where she started out.

“I have parents that want me to succeed … and they didn’t want to thwart me by saying: ‘You can only be in this restaurant and run this restaurant. This is the rest of your life.’ They’ve never said that to me. They allowed me to move to New York, move to outside of the country, Spain, Lebanon, move to D.C., and still come back, use everything that I learned and implement that.”

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Evie is a producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.

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