An Obituary: Sahara Restaurant and Hookah Bar

An Obituary: Sahara Restaurant and Hookah Bar

Contributing Writer Bayan Atari

Acknowledging that Sahara Restaurant and Hookah Bar is gone is like laying a racist older relative to death: you feel bad on principle, because death simply is not a happy thing; but you’re not exactly mourning the loss either.

Comparing Sahara to a racist relative is by no means an exaggeration. I worked at Sahara for a brief period of time during my freshman year, so I know what went on behind the perpetually shattered glass door. Racial slurs regularly spewed from mouths of the manager and the cook, who was essentially an assistant manager. Sexism wasn’t uncommon, either. The manager used misogynistic and vaguely sexual terms to refer to the team of girls that made up the wait staff, and there was an unspoken understanding that we were to wear as little clothing as possible if we wanted tips. It was a hostile environment, to say the least.

The most impressive thing about Sahara was how long it stayed in business. Richmond, especially the area around VCU campus, sees the coming and going of restaurants at a rapid pace. It wasn’t the quality of Sahara’s hookah or its food that kept it going. Being middle eastern and having frequented both cheap and expensive hookah bars back in my country of origin, there’s no doubt in my mind that Sahara’s product is subpar. I worked there for two months before deciding that both the conditions and the hours were unbearable, giving me inside knowledge on just how bad the physical environment was, as well. Cleaning up after closing meant sweeping and mopping away at a layer of grime. It could only be reduced, never truly cleaned. The men’s bathroom was perpetually out of order. I went home every night, or rather morning, at five A.M. with a layer of ash underneath my fingernails. Thanks to Sahara, I know filth as well as I know hookah.

Seriously, what kept Sahara going for as long as it did was its proximity to a captive audience of VCU freshmen that will eat anything that tastes better than Shafer Dining Hall, though I’d argue that Shafer’s pizza is fresher and tastes decent even when you’re sober. The food was the sort of fare that’s mildly enjoyable if you’re intoxicated. The restaurant served dry pizza with a cardboard-reminiscent texture and soggy curly fries to the freshmen that kept the place in business. These Freshmen have never had a properly-prepared hookah. Those freshmen didn’t tip well either, unfortunately.

Speaking of tipping, the service was the only mildly passable thing at Sahara. That opinion may be biased from the fact that I was a waitress there, but there was a sort of kinship between the girls who flipped low-quality coals and served frozen cheesecake at Sahara. Probably because we were all suffering. Staying awake through the overnight hours by consuming copious amounts of Cocaine, an energy drink served at the high-class establishment, not the drug. However, I think I did see an underage-looking patron snort something suspicious at one point.

In the end I’m glad no one will ever have to work at Sahara ever again. It’s comforting to know that freshmen and drunk Richmond natives stumbling out from the nearest club will be forced to find a hookah bar where the hookahs have been cleaned properly and don’t taste like ash. If anything the fact that Sahara survived for as long as it did proved that its former location is great for business. Hopefully whatever establishment takes Sahara’s place won’t serve slimy, grease-covered Philly cheese steaks.

Bo Dillaz: From Late-Night Hunger to Creative Satisfaction

Bo Dillaz: From Late-Night Hunger to Creative Satisfaction Bo Dillaz: From Late-Night Hunger to Creative SatisfactionBy Samuel RootsBo Dillaz is not the typical eat-in/take-out restaurant. It lacks the family environment of your everyday diner, but still maintains quality food. In short, Bo Dillaz is not pinnacle fine dining, however it is still a c...

A Day in the Life: A Day on Campus

A Day in the Life: A Day on Campus via Danielle "Dani" BrownIt’s the last month before the end of the semester, and that usually means two things: final exams and projects, and more time spent on campus preparing. A good portion of VCU students already live on-campus, which means they eat on-campus, with their meal plan, and don’t have t...

Preview

How to: Arroz con Pollo Processed with VSCO with a6 presetvia Nicolette and Katie TufanGrowing up in a Hispanic household, it was a tradition to have arroz con pollo once a week, or a least a couple of times a month. Why? Simply put, my grandma would always make it a quick meal whenever she had leftover chicken and she didn’t want to thro...

Date and Nut Energy Balls

Date and Nut Energy Balls via Nicholas Thomason with The Vegan Club @ VCUOne of my favorite no-cook recipes is date balls! They are super easy, pack with a tons of nutrition, give you a burst of energy, and can even satisfy that sweet tooth! Normally, I make a big batch of these on Sunday night and snack on them throughout the week — part...