Lisa and Armin Grozdanic are excited for Yapi's next chapter.
For the past six years, Lisa and Armin Grozdanic have been spreading sandwich joy to south St. Louis with their restaurant Yapi Mediterranean Subs and Sandwiches, first at a storefront in Southampton, which they eventually relocated to St. Louis Hills. Now, the husband and wife team is yet again preparing to move Yapi to an entirely different part of town.
In an interview with the Riverfront Times
, Lisa Grozdanic confirms that she and her husband closed their St. Louis Hills location on September 17 in preparation for Yapi's new chapter — a storefront on the eastern edge of the Central West End on Vandeventer Avenue, diagonal from City Foundry. The new Yapi, which Grozdanic anticipates will open on October 22 will fill a void left by the former Mediterranean restaurant Yiro/Gyro.
"We're serving everything from gyros to cevapi to buffalo chicken sandwiches and gyro salads," Grozcanic says. "It's Americanized style, but it's still halal."
As Grozdanic explains, she and her husband had been talking about moving Yapi for a while but never had any firm plans to do so. However, Grozdanic would regularly drive by the vacant Yiro/Gyro space during the course of her work with the Islamic Foundation of Greater St. Louis. Located in the same neighborhood as the Foundation, the vacant storefront seemed like prime real estate thanks to its proximity to Saint Louis University, Cortex, Ikea and City Foundry, so Grozdanic mentioned it to her husband, who didn't immediately think much of it. When it was still available this past Ramadan, she revisited the idea with him, and this time, he was on board.
"We believe that what is written for us will be ours, and what is not written for us will not be ours," Grozdanic says. "The fact that it was still for rent, and I had mentioned it more than one time made us realize it was meant to be."
Fans of Yapi can rest assured that the menu will be nearly identical to what the Grozdanics have been serving for the past six years in south St. Louis. However, as Grozdanic explains, the format will be different; instead of full-service, the restaurant will be a fast-casual format to cater to the on-the-go energy of the area. She and her husband are also considering offering a very simple, take-and-go breakfast and coffee option, though they are still working out what that will look like.
"It will be very small, ready-made breakfast from like 6-9 [a.m.]," Grozdanic says. "Right now, there is really nowhere for college students to grab coffee and breakfast sandwiches."
Grozdanic is thrilled that this move will introduce a new crop of diners to Yapi, but she remains thankful to the loyal customers who have made the restaurant the success it is today. Already, many have expressed making the trek across town to the new location , and she notes that their support has been so vital getting their business through COVID-19 and also helping them during a very difficult personal time when they lost their eight-year-old son in January of 2020.
"If we can get through COVID and losing our son right before COVID, then it feels like the restaurant industry must be written for us," Grozdanic says. "When God closes one door, he opens another. It really was meant to be."