The Gilded Serpent
remodeled interior of Al Masri,
formerly known as the Grapeleaf.
See new upstair in photo below
at The Grapeleaf Restaurant
San Francisco's atmospheric Grapeleaf Restaurant will soon reopen as Al
Masri (The Egyptian), fully renovated and redecorated, with a shift from
the former Lebanese to an all-new Egyptian theme and menu. Phoenix-like,
arising from the ashes of a dreadful divorce and forced closure, petite
and spunky owner-operator Sausan has persevered and returns stronger than
ever with her new partner from Egypt. That new partner, Hatem, from Alexandria
in Egypt, had previously been a steady customer at the former Grapeleaf.
When he saw it flounder, he told Sausan he could help "turn it around".
The walls were formerly covered with tapestries and the largest collection
of camel artifacts ever crammed between four walls along with plants that
flourished, then died. These same walls now are graced with Egyptian motifs
of Hatem's artistry. The kitchen will serve up his favorite family recipes.
We at Gilded Serpent wanted to know more about Sausan; she was gracious
and candid during our several interviews as we pried into" herstory"
and private affairs! She said that her mother was 2nd Lieutenant in the
Women's Air Corps during WWII. After the war she flew to Guam, where her
intended husband was employed, and married him there. He was a civil engineer
whose expertise was "horizontal construction" of airports and
roads. His work took the family to Madrid when Sausan was one year old.
By age four, she was learning Flamenco and Alegrias - with castanets!
Thailand, where Thai classical dance was on
the school curriculum until she was 15, when they moved back to Marysville,
California, (where she studied Scottish sword dance). Finally out of high
school she was drawn to a belly dance class in Sacramento with Jodette,
and soon began performing (at a local biker bar in Lodi). In 1977 Sausan
moved to San Francisco - her day job title was Tape Librarian for the U.S.
Postal Data Center. She began classes with Nakish, an exquisite and accomplished
African-American woman with flamboyant Egyptian styling. By 1980 Sausan
was one of the North Beach regulars, dancing nightly at the famous Baghdad
on Broadway and The Greek Taverna on Columbus, as well as for Eastern Onion
Singing Telegram Service. She had also attended the now infamous EST Training,
which she credits with the raw gumption it took to get over her fears and
get out there! ("OK I'm a scared little sh**, so why not be one while
out experiencing life rather than be that at home?"). Among her North
Beach memories is the evening she arrived to bloodstained furniture being
cleaned where a noted patron had been unobtrusively stabbed to death during
the previous night's revelry.
by John Bonnett Wexo
Our Price: $19.95
Provides information on the physical characteristics, behavior, and
different kinds of
camels. Availability: Usually ships within 24 hours
|Camels Don't Ski
by Francesca Simon, Ailie Busby List
Price: $14.95 Our Price: $10.47 You Save: $4.48 (30%) Availability:
This title usually ships within 2-3 days. Reading level: Ages 4-8
Camels Don't Ski Today!
In 1984 she auditioned for Gabe Michael, Lebanese-American owner of The
Grapeleaf. By 1986 she quit her day job to marry Gabe. (Here I tried to
comment on the vast cultural gap between American Woman and Middle Eastern
Man, but Sausan insists now that Gabe was a full-blooded American chauvinist).
Sausan become a full partner in the restaurant, as well as frequent performer.
She began packaging and distributing a line of appetizers to health and
gourmet markets (e.g. hummus and baba ganooj) under the trademark "Culinary
Clyde's", after the restaurant's mascot, Clyde the Camel. Every year
she sponsored "Christmas with Clyde and Friends" which included
an all-day workshop and evening performances by nationally known dancers
such as Amaya, Sahra, etc. Many dance events have been catered by Sausan,
including Desert Dance Festival in San Jose, (September) and Festival Fantasia
in Sebastapol, (October). Who could forget the biannual belly dance flea
market! There we discovered Sausan sold a collection of cloisonné
dancer pins (still available). Meanwhile, Sausan also served as Petty Officer
in the Navy Reserves from 1978 to 1998, during which she performed on bases
the world over, including both the North and South Poles (hence her nickname
the "Bipolar Belly Dancer"). During the Gulf War She was in ready
reserve status while servicing and refueling aircraft in the U.S.
If that were not enough, she found energy to publish internationally, "Sausan's
Resource Directory Guide for Belly Dancers", as well as a quarterly
newsletter of local events (now called "Mohamed Ali Street Corner Quarterly").
These were put on the "back burner" during the three-year crisis
of divorce proceedings. At first Gabe evicted her from the Grapeleaf Restaurant
and claimed all rights to her publications. When he went back to his family
in Florida (1995), she formally bought the lease and became the "leaseholder"
or "landlord". In 1997 she then filed a restraining order to exclude
Gabe while she opened the restaurant Sunday nights only, with live music
and dancing (primarily for dance teachers to bring students to experience
live performance). Those nights we saw her working in the kitchen, literally
"sweating over a hot stove"!
The court eventually awarded to Sausan all the at-risk permits, licenses
and revenues generated by her meticulously culled mailing list of 10,000.
She recently sent a gracious letter of apology to all of her advertisers
with discounted rates to recompense for the lapse in publication. She is
striving to get the magazine out again by the end of this year.
Sausan's target date for re-opening her restaurant
is November 26. With the expert help of her partner, Sausan has cleaned,
re-wired, re-plumbed. She has re-painted, re-upholstered, and has also
installed two new sound systems (one for live and one for taped music).
The cozy, 49-seat restaurant now reflects the glorious days of ancient
Egypt. The extensive menu includes traditional Egyptian dishes such as
Mulokhia (leafy green plant called Jewish mellow or jute plant), U'Ass
(turnip plant), Bamyia (okra), Lubiya (black-eyed beans) and many more.
Additional entrees include crab, lobster, prawns, New York steak, shish
kebob made with filet mignon, rabbit, chicken, game hens, and quail, as
well as many salads. Beverages include Egyptian fruit drinks plus Egyptian
and domestic beer and wine. A secluded private room is now available for
parties of up to twenty people.
Sausan will employ several Belly Dance artists to perform nightly, Thursday
through Monday. She welcomes outside performers passing through San Francisco
and offers them a chance to showcase their talent. Sausan herself says
she has stepped down from performing in deference to "providing the
opportunity to would-be professionals eager to break into the dance field".
She claims this is her choice and not another "Middle Eastern Man
Dictate".) Sausan also has plans for an Egyptian cookbook and several
works on Middle Eastern Dance, as well as a new line of Egyptian dressings
and sauces for distribution to local markets.
Many kudos and zaghareets to this friendly, bright-smiled, freckled, ever-the-girl-next-door-looking
woman who followed her dream of dance and continues to provide a place
for the rest of us to do the same!
Brava and thank you Sausan!
For reservations and information: Phone: 415-876-2300 Fax:
To get on Sausan's mailing list send all your info to:
PORT SAID PUBLICATIONS
2215 Market Street Suite 214
San Francisco, CA 94114