An emblematic restaurant in Saint-Louis is about to undergo a major transformation: Restaurant Grbic (4071 Keokuk St, 314-772-3100), the 30-year-old restaurant that introduced Bosnian cuisine to diners in St. Louis, will close its doors to the public on August 28 to focus solely on the special events side of its business. The Grbic family announced the closure in a Facebook post Aug. 2, assuring long-time customers that it’s not a goodbye but simply a new way forward for the beloved restaurant.
“This morning I was in a sad place but all of a sudden my brain stopped me and said, ‘No, no. What are you doing? and co-owner Senada Grbic. “I just got this new burst of energy. I’m so sad to see this chapter come to an end, but I’m so excited for this new chapter.”
As Senada explained both in his message and at Riverside Time, she and her family have decided to put an end to their catering activities in order to be able to devote themselves fully to their solid business of private events. For as long as they can remember, they felt pulled in two different directions, dividing attention between their dining room and their banquets. Now, after a massive renovation of the private events venue, they feel it’s the right time to focus all of their attention on this side of operations.
The changes are bittersweet for the whole Grbic family. After opening in Dutchtown in 1992, Grbic became the most recognizable symbol of the Bosnian community’s impact on the St. Louis food scene, thanks to their warm hospitality and the cooking of matriarch Ermina, even though she was a reluctant participant at first. Senada recalls the day his father, Sulejman, piled the whole family into their car and drove them to the building that would become Grbic, dropping on his mother that he had bought a restaurant after years of telling her not to. not do it. However, once she realized it was a done deal, she was completely dedicated to making it a success, as were her children Senada, Ermin and the late Erna.
From day one, the restaurant was a family affair, with everyone playing a vital role in its success. It didn’t take long for the restaurant to become known as the place in town for Bosnian cuisine, and it was enjoying a loyal following and growing private event activity. Senada is proud of what her family has created, but she is quick to say how difficult it has been. Between the dining room, the event venue and the patio, it is not uncommon for them to serve around 600 people at a time. It’s a high-pressure environment that can be intense for family and staff.
“We’re doing great business and our employees are happy, but we want to make sure everyone stays happy, and we need to revise our business model to achieve that,” Senada said. “Plus, I’m ready to watch my parents enjoy their lives. The restaurant was exhausting because we’re very active. We love the hustle and bustle of everything, but it consumes our lives, and we had to make some change.”
Senada had been toying with this idea for several months, but she found the push she needed to make the leap from a very special person: her late sister, Erna, who died of cancer in 2019.
“I really feel like a lot of this was due to my sister’s advice,” Senada said. “She [wanted] do this six or seven years ago, but we never thought we could come to this. Recently I found her notebooks with all these notes about closing – what she would do and how. It really opened our minds to what is possible. Plus, she really liked work events. I know it sounds funny, but work events always make us feel closer to her. When I’m working on a wedding, it’s like I can see her in space and have these ‘What would Erna do?’ moments.”
Senada notes that her parents are a big reason she and her brother, Ermin, decided to end the restaurant side of the business. Although the two are getting older, they have been reluctant to walk away from the restaurant; it seems to be the only way to convince them to retire. Senada laughs that they didn’t need much convincing; About a day after making the decision, her mother enthusiastically booked a ticket to Bosnia, something she hadn’t had the luxury of doing in the past due to restaurant obligations.
However, Senada also feels that these changes are an important path for her and Ermin. For her part, she is eager to design new menus and build on the basics her mother gave her. She insists she keeps her mother’s recipes and will continue to offer traditional Bosnian dishes, although she plans to make them more suitable for an elevated banquet format. It’s a big change but she’s ready to take it on.
“It doesn’t feel like an ending because that’s really what I wanted,” Senada said. “I’m so excited to tackle this new chapter and take everything my mom taught me and find a way to elevate it and incorporate it in a new way. I’m really looking forward to push and challenge myself. I have so much creative energy, and I’m ready to unleash it.”
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