Restaurant Decor


Local restaurants want customers to imagine themselves away from Athens

Meghan Morris / For The Post

Food isn’t the only element that creates a better eating experience for customers. Local restaurants can create different atmospheres through themed decor.

Hilarie Burhans, co-owner of Salaam, said her restaurant serves cuisine from around the world and doesn’t cook cuisines from the Americas. Instead, Salaam serves dishes from countries like Pakistan, Greece and Turkey.

Hannah Schroeder | PHOTO EDITOR

Restaurant Salaam, located on W. Washington Street in Athens, Ohio, offers Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and North African cuisine, with the aesthetics to match.

“You don’t have as many options as you would in a large city,” she said. “We have tried to let people experience a variety of ethnic cuisines.”

Before Salaam, Burhans and her family operated a hookah bar that served Middle Eastern food. They agreed that making global cuisine was the best part of running the first business, so they moved to a better address to start a restaurant.

Salaam’s location at 21 W. Washington St. is unusual for Athens because it’s wide, but they put in some walls and decorated nearly every inch of the interior with pieces from ethnic cultures.

“I wanted a really eclectic group of decor items,” she said. “I’m very fond of fabrics (and) tiles. It’s a large enough space that I think everything sits nicely with each other.”

When Burhans and her husband traveled to India, she even brought back vases and wired them into lamps for the tables. Mismatched Indian table cloths boasting vivid greens and blues were a necessity because she didn’t want Salaam to be a “white tablecloth kind of establishment.”

“My whole decor mission was to make people feel, when they walked into the restaurant, as if they were entering another world,” she said. “Let them get out of Athens just for long enough to have a meal.”

Jay Shapiro, co-owner of Union Street Diner, 70 W. Union St., said the restaurant has several pictures of Ohio University and its sports games. The collegiate vibe and 24/7 operating hours make the diner a prime option for anyone, especially a younger crowd, wanting traditional American food.

“People like that, they can come here anytime,” he said. “College students probably tend to come in later in the night.”

Tyler Sampson, owner and chef at 9 Tables, said there aren’t many decent places in Athens to order a multicourse meal in a fine dining atmosphere.

“I started it out as somewhere you could sit down and have a seven-course meal because you really can’t get that anywhere else around here,” he said.

Sampson took the idea of fine dining and brought it to Athens. 9 Tables is only open Thursday to Saturday from 5 p.m. to midnight. The restaurant offers a five-course meal and a seven-course meal.

He wanted 9 Tables to emulate a jazzy vibe with records and antique instruments hanging on the walls.

“I like to think of our restaurant as a more relaxed setting than a suit-and-tie sort of fine dining restaurant, and I think jazz really captures that,” Sampson said. “It’s an art form that’s a little more relaxed but still classical at the same time.”

In Salaam, some wall spaces are covered by several hand-stitched ralli quilts, a type of traditional quilt from Pakistan, and suzani needlework, a type of embroidered fabric from Tajikistan.

Burhans enjoys finding new additions for her restaurants in odd places, like thrift stores, and even tinkering with them to suit a purpose. A few of her ceiling lamps came from Big Lots, and they were originally candle holders. She added light bulbs and curtain tassels so they could fit the interior.

Burhans said Salaam doesn’t have the same clientele as many chain restaurants around Athens. Besides visiting the restaurant for personal celebrations and OU events, students and faculty will also bring people from out of town.

“We love that we are on the short list of places that people like to bring someone to show off Athens,” she said.


Development by: Taylor Johnston / Digital Production Editor

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