Sameem Afghan Restaurant came to the Grove in 2012 after learning about the district from a friend. They settled into the space at 4341 Manchester Ave. and quickly became a favorite of visitors to the entertainment district. In the midst of the expansion of the restaurant, Fahime Mohammad, Owner, took a break to talk to us about his experience in the Forest Park South Business Association area.
Why did you decide to establish your business in the neighborhood?
Why not? We opened in early 2012. We were on South Grand and Guy Slay, a big stakeholder in the neighborhood and a big supporter of Sameem really liked our food. He was the very first person who told me about the Grove Neighborhood. He was like, “Why don’t you take a tour? I would love for you to come along and open up a Sameem location in the Grove neighborhood.” That was the very beginning of my exposure to the Grove, and in 2011 we were looking for a place here. I saw that the LGBT center was for sale. I got a tour and but it was a little bit outside my buying power. While I was here, I saw the sign on this building – it was up for sale at auction.
What is your favorite aspect of being part of the Forest Park South business community?
It is a very diverse community, a very friendly community. It’s a very open minded community, so why not? It’s a reflection of American culture because nobody is from here but we migrate here somehow for some reason, you integrate – you are a member of a society.
Why did you get into this business?
My brother and I used to work at the Old Warson Country Club. We started out as bus boys and we worked our way to food runners then waiters, maître’d and finally supervisors. We learned most of our English there and it was kind of like our entry to the American culture. We learned a lot about the restaurant industry. We had a lot of inspiration. We did that for 14 years. Then I worked at Edward Jones. My background is actually in computer science. You know, I worked there for four years and I noticed the economy changing. My brother told me about a business for sale on South Grand so I told him we would be more successful to merge and to create this business. Officially, this is the only Afghani restaurant in the city. We enjoy the natural monopoly, Fahime notes with a laugh.
What is your specialty?
Hospitality is ingrained in the Afghan Pashtun culture. We have that as a foundation and it is also the foundation of the restaurant industry. If you’re not hospitable, you’re toying with, like 33 % of your success. We want to make sure each customer gets personal service, make sure they get friendly service. We want to make sure they are satisfied with their service here and that the quantities are filling.
What would you like others to know about your business?
If you want to, come try it for a first time, that’s it! I will give anyone a free appetizer if they mention that this is their first time eating Afghani food.
What is your business philosophy?
To always keep in mind that to manage your business there will always be something somewhere that is going to need attention or to be corrected. Also, to make sure that employees are happy and that the company culture is friendly.
What is your favorite dish here?
Honestly, it depends what day it is. There is absolutely nothing disappointing on our menu. When I get asked by a customer, I don’t know if I should tell them based on the sales stats or should I tell them I don’t know I say hey, you like spicy or mild? Then I can direct them to something according to their palate. To answer your question – everything! Our best-selling is Chicken Teekah Masala , the Lamb Qabelli, and our Kabobs.
Chicken teekah masala is an Indian dish but we make it different at Sameem. If you go to an Indian restaurant it will be made out of dark chicken meat, in here we make it with white meat, chicken tender loin. We cook the chicken kabob on the grill. Ours is not as spicy and it doesn’t have too much cream either. The chicken is marinated. Then we pour the chicken masala sauce over it. It comes with rice. The sauce is not too dense and not too creamy
What would surprise most people about your business?
People are surprised when they come in and they see that it is Afghani, because a lot of people have been mystified by the Afghan culture. A lot of times, when people don’t know anything about the Afghan culture, they immediately think of Afghanistan… that’s where Bin Laden used to be… that’s where the Taliban used to be … They don’t know that Afghanistan has history since even the first century and we are a country rich in resources. I think once Afghanistan becomes a peaceful country, people will want to invest in Afghanistan.
Who are your core customers?
People from the Grove and from the business area. We have a lot of Saudi students and they find us to be their favorite restaurant. We have a lot of students from Wash University and SLU. We have a lot of employees physicians and doctors from Washington University Medical Center. It is very diverse. We have people that learn from newspapers and from Yelp and we have a lot of foodies! Right now, the Grove is getting a lot of good feedback and development. Happily, we benefit from that ripple effect.
Visit Sameem Tuesday through Sunday. Open at 11:30 for lunch.
4341 Manchester Ave., 63110 (The Grove)
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15% off the purchase of a lunch or dinner item ( not offered on Fridays, Saturdays or Sundays)