Sage Café in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, was established by Homa Jahannia and her son, Ramin Jahannia, in 2003. From the beginning, it has been an exclusively vegetarian café, with Homa as the cook. Friends warned Homa and Ramin that vegetarian restaurants are not at all certain to draw enough customers to support them, but Homa was convinced that if the food were really good, the décor inviting, and the service excellent, the restaurant would succeed, and she proved to be right.
The Café rapidly developed a clientele of vegetarians, and many non-vegetarians also became regular customers. Artistic imagination has created an environment of warmth, beauty, and comfort.
Homa grew up in Iran. Her cooking is based largely on Persian dishes, adapted to vegetarianism, but it is also eclectic, drawing on Italian and other cuisines. Creative use of herbs and spices, some of which are initially unfamiliar to customers, are used to flavor fresh vegetable and fruit dishes. Wherever possible, organic fruits and vegetables are bought from local sources.
For Homa, the appreciation of customers for the food at Sage Café is the most important accomplishment. Small businesses in general do not make their owners rich, and this was not Homa’s expectation in founding the café. The important achievement has been the creation of an environment of warmth and conviviality, in which good vegetarian food is served and customers are satisfied.