In Westchase District, amidst a diverse culinary scene, stands Kasra Persian Grill – a family legacy spanning five generations. Known for its authentic Persian cuisine, this restaurant was recently honored as one of only four Houston-area restaurants to make the Texas Monthly collection known as “The Good Place.” For anyone who has eaten at Kasra, this will come as no surprise. Their food, from their famous beef kabobs to their chicken barg has received recognition and awards. What is perhaps lesser known is the history of how Kasra came to be a 24-year staple in Westchase District.
A Family Affair
Owner Morty Parsa and his son Adam can often be found at a table in the back corner of the restaurant. Family photos are displayed under the glass tabletop – a testament to the legacy. Morty points to a picture of himself as a young child in his father’s restaurant. There are more photos of Morty with his son and granddaughters. Behind the table are plaques and framed publications lauding the restaurant’s achievements. Morty proudly points to a framed copy of a Kasra story from the July 2007 issue of Westchase Today. It features a picture of a young waitress who still works at Kasra today. This is unsurprising for a person that many workers describe as “the best boss I’ve ever had.” “My Father Akdar owned a restaurant in Tehran called Afshar. I started working in the restaurant as a kid,” said Morty. “My father taught me the ropes – the importance of hard work and dedication. Being in the restaurant business is all-consuming, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”
Morty finished college at Texas Southern and met and married his wife in America. He chose to stay here, but his degree in civil engineering lost its appeal. He longed to be around people. While he was going to school, he worked nights as a bartender and waiter. The restaurant life continued to call to him. “My wife encouraged me to open my own restaurant. She knew it’s what I loved,” Morty said. For the next few years, he flew back and forth to Tehran relearning the restaurant business at his father’s restaurant – now almost 100 years old and still in the family.
Kasra first opened its doors in Westchase District in 1999, taking over an already existing Persian restaurant. “When I opened, it was only me and one server,” said Morty. “I did all the cooking and prepping. I would get to the restaurant at 9 a.m. and leave at 2 a.m. the next morning. But I was driven by serving the highest quality food. One thing my father taught me was that you only serve food to another family that you would be willing to serve to your own family.”
At the beginning, growth was slow. Most people had no idea that Kasra existed. Despite the hurdles, Morty’s focus on delivering top-notch food and service began to pay off. Word of mouth spread, and soon Kasra became a haven for those seeking authentic Persian cuisine. “I came out one night and the restaurant was completely full,” he said. “It was just me and the one server. I was not ready.” Adam adds, “My mom worked out a deal with her employer at the time. They allowed her to have a two-hour lunch break and she would come to the restaurant to help with the lunch rush.” The same restaurant that was often empty and had only one employee for the first few years now has 53 employees and is full of regulars. “Many of them started coming here as children with their parents. Now they are grown up and bring their own children,” said Morty. The restaurant has also expanded, opening two new locations in Clear Lake and Rice Village.
From one father and son to the next
Adam and Morty laugh when asked what it’s like to be in the restaurant business together as father and son. “When I was growing up working in the restaurant with my father, we had different ideas and would always argue. Now my son has different ideas, and we argue,” said Morty.
Adam jokes about updating technology. He says that his grandfather had an abacus, his father used a calculator with pen and paper. Adam waited until Morty was out of town and installed a point-of-sale system. Adam then gets more serious. “When I was a kid, my dad was gone a lot. The restaurant required so much work. Now, being in business together, I feel like I’m getting that time back. It’s really special.”
Morty is clearly proud of his son, explaining that now that he is in his seventies, he mostly spends his time conversing with customers while Adam runs the restaurant and plans the expansion.
Family is how Kasra Persian Grill was founded and how it will continue. But the family doesn’t just include five generations of restaurateurs. It also includes countless satisfied customers across the greater Houston area.
Kasra Persian Grill
9741 Westheimer Rd., 832-834-5697
Monday – Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sundays from 12 p.m. – 10 p.m.