Cafe Persepolis closes its doors Tuesday
WILLMAR -- It was bittersweet moment this week as diners enjoyed their meals at Cafe Persepolis in Willmar. The Mediterranean restaurant, which served as an eatery and also an educational experience for many, closed Tuesday.
WILLMAR - It was bittersweet moment this week as diners enjoyed their meals at Cafe Persepolis in Willmar. The Mediterranean restaurant, which served as an eatery and also an educational experience for many, closed Tuesday.
Owner John Emami said many customers are disappointed that the restaurant is closed, but he said it is time for change and time for him to move into retirement.
Emami reflected on his experiences since the Cafe Persepolis opened in 2006 at 145 Litchfield Ave. S.W. in Willmar.
“I did my job, I think, and hopefully the people of Willmar and the surrounding area have a memory of this restaurant that it was something very unique and different and had the chance to travel to other countries without a visa or passport,” Emami said.
Guests of the restaurant enjoyed such international flavors as Persian, Greek and Italian. Customer Dana Persson dined at the restaurant Monday and said she will miss the unique atmosphere of Cafe Persepolis.
“It’s such a unique restaurant that it’s going to be missed,” Persson said. “It was a very intimate place to come and talk and enjoy world-class food.”
Emami, a native of Iran, moved to Willmar in 1992 and said he opened the restaurant because he wanted to give back to the community that had always been hospitable to his family.
He said he was glad to give his guests, including locals and those from more distant places, a chance to taste international flavors. Emami said he made it his mission to create a space that included a variety of cultures.
“It was really fun and it was really a joy for me to start to know more people and start to transfer my culture, my food and also my love,” Emami said. “I easily can see how much they are on one hand disappointed that the restaurant is going to be closed and on the other hand they congratulate me that I’m retiring.”
A guest book at the entrance of the restaurant was filled with comments from restaurant guests who shared their dining experiences over the years.
Customers in recent days were also able to take their own taste of the world home as they purchased some of the global artwork and decorations that once adorned the restaurant.
Various areas of the restaurant featured items from particular regions of the world.
“At the same time (customers) could travel to eight or nine countries,” Emami said. “A lot of them were interested in the variety of food that we provided and they could taste. They appreciated it and I really appreciate them for helping me to be here.”
Emami said he will serve favored menu selections from Cafe Persepolis at Yogurt Plus, managed by his wife, Ashley Emami.
Yogurt Plus, located in Willmar’s Kandi Mall, will expand its menu to include dishes such as pomegranate meatball soup, gyros, hummus, falafel, stuffed grape leaves, Greek salad and chicken raspberry salad. Emami said vegetarians, vegan and breakfast options will also likely be offered.
Now that Emami is retiring, he said he hopes to move closer to the cities and be closer to his children and grandchildren.
Emami does not know if another business will take the place of Cafe Persepolis.
He said he wishes the best for his customers and employees.
“Honestly from the deep of my heart I thank the people of Willmar and surrounding area or anyone who visited us and stayed with us here and had our food,” Emami said. “I also would like to appreciate my staff, who during the past eight years they worked hard to keep everyone happy and create something that everyone enjoyed.”