Dariush Moslemi infuses his food with memories from another decade.
For restauranteur Dariush Moslemi, cooking has always been a passion. Moslemi started in the food industry in 1994 when he worked at a fast food chain at 16 years old. In 2008, he moved back to Stillwater—he had previously lived there from 1995 to 1997—to work for Marx Fusion Bistro, and, in the process of working at an array of restaurants, he began to put his passion for food into business, starting with The Velveteen Speakeasy, an upscale cocktail bar located in downtown Stillwater.
Moslemi considers himself self-taught, but he notes that he learned 80 percent of his skills through classically French-trained chef Mark Hansen. Moslemi says, “He loved talking about food and loved teaching it. Likewise, I loved learning about it. I was a sponge with everything he taught me.”
Moslemi says the city of Stillwater itself is his biggest inspiration as a business owner. He says, “There are so many awesome places [in Stillwater], and I have learned and adapted from each one of them.” Moslemi explains how he always wanted to be in Stillwater, and he dreamt of owning a business in the downtown district. “It was either Stillwater or Los Angeles, and after moving to Los Angeles for a month, I realized Stillwater is where I wanted to be,” he says. “I loved the vibe with the antique shops, and I believed another restaurant, like the Wild Hare, was a perfect fit for downtown Stillwater.”
Moslemi’s biggest inspiration as a restauranteur doesn’t just derive from this town but also his favorite show: Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. Moslemi says, “I watch Guy Fieri all the time, and I love it because of the diversity of the different chefs. I would just watch and take notes. I have a notebook filled with ideas that the Wild Hare uses a lot of [techniques] of.” Moslemi has taken his experience working in mainly fine dining and applied what he learned to casual dining. With inspiration stemming from Stillwater, Guy Fieri and his past experiences, he created the Wild Hare, a hybrid-food experience focused on diverse taste palates.
Though Moslemi and his wife, as well as business partner, Sarah, come from the world of fitness, they’ve introduced concepts from that realm into dining. Moslemi says, “Originally, we owned several yoga studios—so that really influenced the Wild Hare because we took a lot of ayurvedic knowledge, which is an Indian practice, with wellness, eating and dietary needs. We fused that with a lot of knowledge I had from the restaurant business.”
The Wild Hare’s menu is based around healthy and digestable options, served in a dive-bar fashion by talented chefs. With the unique offerings of healthy food combinations, patrons can indulge in a variety of tasty options while also feeding their overall health.
Because the food in the ’90s wasn’t as health conscious, Moslemi wanted to modernize it. The Wild Hare uses rice bran oil, which is healthier than its alternatives; and everything on the menu is gluten-free, except for hamburger buns. Moslemi says, “We wanted to take all these classic, tasty and fun things, while also not giving you that bloat or icky feeling. All of our ingredients are healthier and lower calories from their original form from the ’90s.” But this isn’t your typical organic cafe—there is something for an array of different backgrounds and dietary needs. “The diversity of our clientele is very important to us, and we truly have something for everyone,” Moslemi says.
“We wanted to create this meeting place where all walks of life and palates can sit and enjoy something together. Nostalgia is one thing that brings people together, and we want people to bond over the ’90s experience and be like, ‘Oh, wow, remember that ’90s album?’” Moslemi says with a smile. “We want it to be inclusive, something for everyone to enjoy no matter where you come from.” Though it’s difficult for Moslemi to choose a personal favorite menu item, he points to the cheese curds, which have housemade Moroccan seasoning, the Korean bowl and the blackened burger.
Featuring reclaimed wood, metal accents and ’90s decor, such as the album wall, its sure to bring customers back to when they were younger. “We really wanted the place to be unique to look at, wherever you looked. My wife and I both graduated high school in the ’90s, and we always had a thick book of CD covers, so we wanted to replicate that,” Moslemi says. The wall on the restaurant’s bar features many of the ‘90s albums that Moslemi and his wife loved. And, of course, ’90s music is heard in the background and music videos from the era are on the TV. “The restaurant also has old pinball machines as well as the original Mortal Kombat 2 for every gamer out there,” Moslemi says. “We really wanted to transport our customers back in time.”
Travel Back in Time
When Moslemi is asked about his favorite ’90s moments and themes, he laughs and shrugs. Moslemi says, “… I really don’t think I have very notable favorite moments because everything meshed together because they were my young years.” Here’s a few of his throwback moments.
Food/Snack: Gas station nachos with cheese sauce
TV show: Seinfeld
Singer/group: Nirvana … “I sometimes catch my 13-year-old daughter singing and humming Nirvana, and I’m like, ‘Are you singing that right now?’ I get so proud. It’s cool to see,” he says.
Song: Glycerine by Bush
Clothing: Jeans, a white T-shirt and Converse or Dr. Martens