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Preserving love and culture in a foreign land: Green Zatar serves Denton for more than 20 Years

Preserving love and culture in a foreign land: Green Zatar serves Denton for more than 20 Years

Preserving love and culture in a foreign land: Green Zatar serves Denton for more than 20 Years
July 06
17:14 2018

Among a line of other small businesses on Sunset Street in Denton sits a historic hidden gem.

This hole-in-the-wall is Green Zatar, a Persian and Mediterranean restaurant run by married couple Ali and Hakimeh Pourmorshed.

The restaurant, however, was not a restaurant when it was first established in 1996 – it started as a grocery store.

“The business began as International Foods of Denton, a specialty import grocery store,” Ali said. “In 2004, we decided to change the business to a restaurant, as many of the customers were requesting we cook things in the store rather than just sell them.”

The process was gradual.

“We began with a few tables and slowly expanded and remodeled into the Green Zatar restaurant Denton knows today,” Ali said.

The restaurant still has a small section devoted to specialty groceries, with unique Middle Eastern goods that are difficult to find anywhere else. These items range from intricate Persian books to imported teas and rice, and the Pourmorsheds line one wall of the restaurant on white shelves decorated with Persian memorabilia and multi-colored vases.

The couple named the restaurant Green Zatar because za’atar is a famous Middle Eastern herb and spice blend used in many traditional dishes.

“Za’atar is used in many of Green Zatar’s dishes including one of the most popular appetizers, za’atar bread, and many others,” Hakimeh said.

It starts with love

Hakimeh and Ali originally met and fell in love in their hometown in Iran. He was the first to immigrate to the United States, but they missed each other so much that Hakimeh began making plans to come to the States as well.

“We both immigrated in the early ’70s from Iran to attend university,” Hakimeh said.

After graduating from Louisiana State University, they got married and began their business and family.

For them, business and family are intertwined.

“Our vision in opening this business was to be able to create an abundant life for our family,” Ali said.

Hakimeh and Ali have two children they are very proud of: Hormat and Hamed Pourmorshed. Both have grown up in the restaurant helping the family business, and even now, they can still be found working shifts on wait staff occasionally.

“The children are a huge part of the business and helped in all areas, including the kitchen, managing the restaurant and as wait staff,” Hakimeh said.

Hormat and Hamed are both UNT alumni.

Aside from them, there are only three other employees, all of whom are wait staff since the Pourmorsheds do not trust anyone but themselves to cook their own cuisine. But even the wait staff feel at home in the restaurant’s environment.

“It’s like family here,” employee and UNT student Soline Demetz-Lovell, 22, said. “Even the people who don’t work here anymore drop by to say hi and come and go as they please. It’s so nice here.”

Still, blood is thicker than water, and the Pourmorsheds want to keep the family business within the family.

“There are many customers who have been coming to Green Zatar for more than 20 years who can recall Hormat and Hamed being babies, and who have gotten to watch them and the business grow simultaneously,” Ali said.

Now, after being in business for more than 24 years, Ali and Hakimeh continue to be motivated by their children and loyal customers, and although their children are currently pursuing their own careers, Ali and Hakimeh plan to pass the business on to their children in five years.

The Green Zatar restaurant is decorated with Mediterranean influences to create an authentic atmosphere. Emilia Capuchino

A piece of home in Denton

The Pourmorsheds have built a place of peace and paradise amid the bustle of Denton that long-time customers can attest to.

French music plays softly over the sound of meal-time chatter. The restaurant is decorated from top to bottom in colorful hues, lush plants and intricate Persian details. The back wall, where customers can see Ali and Hakimeh busy cooking through the window, is painted to look like a scene of a tranquil Mediterranean home. It looks professionally done, but Hakimeh is the one who designed it all.

“My very talented Hakimeh Pourmorshed is responsible for the beautiful décor,” Ali said. “Her goal was the make the restaurant feel like a little piece of home.”

Lights are also strung up across the deep blue ceiling to have the effect of a romantic outdoor scene overlooking the Mediterranean waters.

“You can enjoy lunch while the room is lit naturally with sunlight and then have dinner under twinkling lights for a more romantic dining experience,” Hakimeh said. “But no matter what time of day you come in, you are sure to feel the charm the space provides.”

However beautiful the space, Ali and Hakimeh also beam with pride for their customers.

“Green Zatar does serve the Middle Eastern community in Denton, as a place to come for a taste of home and to socialize with each other,” Ali said. “Outside of the Middle Eastern community, all nationalities are always present at Green Zatar.”

The couple said it is not rare to hear many different languages being spoken inside the restaurant at once, and it is very special to them to see people of all walks of life connecting over a meal.

“We have had the pleasure of meeting so many unique individuals through the business and are grateful for each and every one,” Hakimeh said. “It has been a pleasure to become a part of the lives of so many in the Denton community.”

Featured Image: Ali and Hakimeh Pourmorshed run a Persian and Mediterranean restaurant off of Sunset St. The Green Zatar was formally a specialty import grocery store before becoming a restaurant. Emilia Capuchino 

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Claire Lin

Claire Lin

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