Economic Development Continues In Auburn Gresham With Grand Re-Opening of the Salaam

It’s been 12 years in the remaking, but the wait is finally over for the re-opening of the Salaam on 79th Street in Auburn Gresham. And the timing – is perfect.

The Salaam originally opened its doors in 1995 amid all the pomp and circumstance befitting a new, fine dining restaurant. For five years the NOI (Nation Of Islam), the restaurant’s owners, worked hard to make the Salaam attract the volume of customers they knew the business was capable of attracting. There was only one problem, people outside the Nation Of Islam didn’t embrace the venue because they thought it was only for members of the Muslim community, so in 2000, the Salaam reluctantly closed its doors.

I work for the Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation and pass by the Salaam every morning on my daily commute to work. I noticed how beautiful and elegant the building was and wondered, myself, why such a magnificent looking place wasn’t open for business. On Tuesday, Carlos Nelson, my Executive Director, asked me to do a story on the Salaam, so I headed over there with my co-workers to get the scoop and to grab some food.  While there, I spoke with Executive Assistant, Carla X about why the Salaam was reopening and how they came up with their new strategy for success. During our interview we were privileged enough to have a private, all-access tour of the Salaam and what we saw was absolutely mind-blowing.

Read my interview with Carla and find out why you should pay the Salaam a visit.

Pia: Thanks for taking a moment to talk with me about the re-opening of the Salaam. Tell me about the original restaurant. What happened?

Carla: We’ve always thought about having something like the Salaam in our communities. I think sometimes people don’t realize that our communities want, need, and can support higher end, fine dining establishments that are on par with those found downtown. So we decided to pull together the capital and make it happen. In 1995 we opened our doors and we were excited about bringing this level of service and elegance to the community. We had a great run, but had to close in 2000 and that made us take a big pause.

Pia: What happened? Were people complaining or unhappy?

Carla: Not at all. We were getting great feedback that this was a great thing to have in the community, but we weren’t getting enough of it from the general public.

Pia: Why is that?

Carla: The short story is that people thought that because The Nation was the organization behind the restaurant that it was only for Muslims and they didn’t feel as though they had ownership of it or that they could embrace it. And that wasn’t something that we anticipated. We never intended for the Salaam to be by us for us. Our concept for this space was always that it would be a palace for our people – for all people. This space is for anyone who wants to come to the south side and still have that fine dining experience. If luxury and comfort is what you’re looking for – we have something to accommodate every price point and every taste experience from fast food to elegant table service.

Pia: Fast forward 12 years and here we are. It looks like you have three distinct rooms or areas, so is there something for everyone?

Carla: We do. And yes, there really is something for everyone. We have a bakery, fast food restaurant, and a ballroom. And that’s just because we’re catering to different tastes and moods. Whatever you’re looking for – you can find it here. Not everyone wants a quick snack on the go. If you want to sit down and catch up, take a break, have lunch, or have a family meal you might opt for the fast food buffet. And sometimes, you want something more. You might want to take that special someone out for a more intimate and more elegant experience or treat yourself or a friend to a meal with great table service. You used to have to leave this community to do that. Now you don’t.  We set the Salaam up to represent three different worlds, almost. Three worlds – three experiences.

Pia: So let’s get to this grand re-opening. Why now? And why did it take 12 years?

Carla: It took twelve years because we really wanted to think about what it would take to make this place a success. We brainstormed and talked and planned and conceptualized and brainstormed some more. We were looking for the right mindset as well as the right time. And it just happened to take twelve years – we needed that time to rebuild our vision and our foundation. And we also needed to find the right people to help us make our vision real. We did an extensive search for the right Executive Chef and couldn’t be happier with our Chef de Cuisine, Chef Carter, who has 23 years under his belt. He’s amazing and we’re excited to have him and our entire staff on board. So, we don’t really consider this a re-opening. This is a rebirth. We’ve transformed everything from the inside out. We have a new concept of how the Salaam should be run and we’re starting fresh.

Pia: Can you tell me more about that?

Carla: Times are hard. People from all faiths and all walks of life need jobs and opportunities. We provide that here at the Salaam. We don’t hire people based on faith, but on skill and ability and teachability and willingness to learn and to grow. It’s time for us to start reinvesting in our communities, reinvesting in our job force, reinvesting in our future. This isn’t something you do on a whim. This takes intention and thought – and faith. And we believe that this is the right time and the right moment for the Salaam to bring economic resources back into the community in a way that benefits all of us.

My hat goes off to the Salaam. It is truly the people’s palace. With three very distinct sections (the bakery, the fast food buffet, and the grand ballroom) – there is something to suit every taste. We took a quick tour of all three spaces and one very elegant, private space.


The Bakery specializes in fresh, made from scratch pastries that are mouthwateringly delicious and baked fresh every day. Those who love coffee will appreciate the lush selection of specialty coffees from Gevalia. At $5, the average bakery treat is very affordable.


The CRESCENT CAFE Fast Food Buffet is an ideal lunch spot. There are plenty of tables and open seating. Booths along the large picture framed windows give you a picturesque view of the street. Large flat screen televisions play sports and talk shows for the lunch rush. Sides and appetizers are displayed buffet-style under glass hoods and the menu is filled with delicious options like Smokehouse Burgers, Crispy Cajun Chicken Strips, Grilled Fish, and more. Desserts include Red Velvet Cake and an even more decadent Black Velvet Cake.  The Fast Food Buffet has something for meat eaters, vegetarians, and vegans. The average tab for lunch is $12 with a drink. They even have a great assortment of non-alcoholic beers and de-alcoholized wines for those who want the more adult or sophisticated drinks without the risk.


This space is AH-MAZING. Your jaw will hit the floor. It’s obvious that a lot of thought, pride, money, and care went into revamping this space. Lush carpeting, marble walls, crystal chandeliers, tall glass vases brimming with exotic blooms, plush chairs, handfolded cloth napkins, and everything wrapped decadently in the richest, deepest burgundy wine color. Light bounces off the mirrored walls and beautiful piano room steals the show as a tribute to Minister Farrakhan’s late brother who was an avid music lover and piano player. The bathrooms are as fine as any you will see downtown. The place screams luxury from the private entrance to the cut crystal chandeliers that are painstakingly cleaned – by hand. The Grand Ballroom is open to the public, but its transformation is still in the making. The menus will go high tech and instead of a paper menu coming to your table, you’ll be greeting by wait staff with a touch screen tablet. The Grand Ballroom features live jazz and a full-service bar that serves non-alcoholic beers, wines, and cocktails. There is a dress code – please call to inquire. Reservations are accepted. The average tab for fine dining in the Grand Ballroom is $25 without drinks.

The Salaam is open to the public and available for renting for weddings, church events, parties, showers, and the Grand Ballroom is even open to rent for fundraisers and theatre shows. The space is fluid and can be arranged to suit your needs. Rental is extremely affordable. $3000 will reserve the space all day – catering is extra.


For those who really want an exclusive, luxury experience – for a mere $250 per plate you can rent out Minister Farrakhan’s own private dining room. It comes complete with private table service, private bathroom, and beautiful, gold-gilded dinner and crystal ware.

I call the Salaam The People’s Palace because the owners wanted to bring a luxury, downtown experience to our community so our people could realize that whatever we want outside of our community, we can build inside it and the impact will be bigger and more far reaching. They wanted to create this space for us – the people. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you believe – the Salaam is your space – no, OUR space. And WE should own it, and use it, and promote it.