Monday, June 24, 2019

Sedara Sweets & Ice Cream Brings a Sense of Home to Affton

Posted By on Mon, Jun 24, 2019 at 6:00 AM

click to enlarge Owners Esraa and George Simon with their daughter Maya. - KATIE COUNTS
  • KATIE COUNTS
  • Owners Esraa and George Simon with their daughter Maya.

When Esraa Simon came to the United States as a refugee fleeing the war in Iraq, she longed for a place that reminded her of home. She grew up in Baghdad going to coffee shops and eating baklava. But she couldn’t find an Arabic cafe anywhere in the St. Louis area—until now.

On May 18, Esraa and her husband George Simon opened Sedara Sweets & Ice Cream (8011 MacKenzie Road, Affton, 314-532-6508) out of a strip mall in Affton. Among many items, the casual counter-service cafe serves Middle Eastern specialities like baklava and Arabic coffee. Just taking a bite of the Iraqi baklava brings Esraa back home.

"I just remember me—how I was in my country,” Esraa says.
click to enlarge Sedara Sweets & Ice Cream, which opened May 18 in Affton, offers fifteen types of baklava. - KATIE COUNTS
  • KATIE COUNTS
  • Sedara Sweets & Ice Cream, which opened May 18 in Affton, offers fifteen types of baklava.

Sedara serves a variety of baked goods including fifteen types of baklava—both Iraqi and Turkish—made by Esraa’s relatives in Detroit. (Iraqi baklava uses more honey, whereas Turkish uses more pistachios.) And just like the name says, Sedara sells ice cream, using products from Wisconsin-based Cedar Crest, and milkshakes.



As well, the cafe offers a small savory menu featuring breakfast bread, falafel and shawarma sandwiches, with rotisserie versions of beef or chicken both on offer.
click to enlarge The cafe also serves baked goods like brownies, muffins, and specialty Arabic breads. - KATIE COUNTS
  • KATIE COUNTS
  • The cafe also serves baked goods like brownies, muffins, and specialty Arabic breads.
"We want to have something for everybody," George says.

George teaches Arabic at Saint Louis University High and works as an Arabic interpreter; he first met Esraa in St. Louis while interpreting for her family. Many of their first dates took place in coffee shops. These dates reminded her of home, but Esraa still remembers how isolating being a new immigrant can be.
click to enlarge George Simon, who also teaches Arabic at Saint Louis University High, has hired some of his former students. Max Nieder (pictured above) and his brother Sam both work at Sedara. - KATIE COUNTS
  • KATIE COUNTS
  • George Simon, who also teaches Arabic at Saint Louis University High, has hired some of his former students. Max Nieder (pictured above) and his brother Sam both work at Sedara.
"It is so hard because we don't have people to tell you the direction—what you have to do. What is right. What is wrong. The law. We have nothing,” Esraa says.

Starting the cafe helped bring a sense of home to Esraa, and the couple wanted others to feel that too. Customers can sit sipping coffee or tea, listening to Arabic music. "People are living in exile thousands and thousands of miles away from home,” George says. “It's nice to have a place to come."

click to enlarge At the counter-service cafe, customers can listen to Arabic music as they sip their coffee. Sedara also offers internet access. - KATIE COUNTS
  • KATIE COUNTS
  • At the counter-service cafe, customers can listen to Arabic music as they sip their coffee. Sedara also offers internet access.
George, a St. Louis native and Lebanese-American, says they also hope to change south county’s perspectives.

“Being an Arab or a Muslim after 9/11 has not been an easy thing,” he says.

Before they opened, George’s mother told him she didn’t think Affton was ready for an Arab restaurant. Since then, George has seen a wide range of people come into his shop.

"People who I never would have thought would be coming in here are eating baklava and drinking Arabic coffee,” George says. “It's happening."

Someday George hopes Sedara can be a cornerstone of the St. Louis area, but for now, he and his wife are just proud of the work they’ve done.

“I'm almost going to be seven years here [in the U.S.] and I did something,” Esraa says. "That means a lot to me."

Sedara Sweets & Ice Cream is open daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. For more information, see their Facebook page.

click to enlarge Esraa and George hope their business becomes are cornerstone of the St. Louis area. - KATIE COUNTS
  • KATIE COUNTS
  • Esraa and George hope their business becomes are cornerstone of the St. Louis area.
 
click to enlarge While Sedara originally started with sweets, the cafe now serves a small menu of savory lunch and dinner items. - KATIE COUNTS
  • KATIE COUNTS
  • While Sedara originally started with sweets, the cafe now serves a small menu of savory lunch and dinner items.

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