NOBLESVILLE — Chef Samir Mohammad and his wife Rachel Firestone Mohammad moved to Noblesville at the end of 2019 with the purpose of opening their own restaurant.
"We're very meticulous; We're more than just trying to serve food and make money. We're all about the guest experience. And we knew at some point we wanted to make it back here to Indiana," Samir told WRTV.
The couple moved from Colorado, where they co-owned a couple of restaurants with business partners. Although the restaurants turned into thriving establishments under their care, the Mohammad's were ready to open a place as sole owners, operating how they wanted.
"We like to be able to have a manageable size where we can touch every table," Rachel said.
In January 2020, the couple moved into a building in downtown Noblesville with an intimate space suited for change. Located on 9th Street, "9th Street Bistro" was born.
"It all came together really kind of quickly and excitingly," Rachel said of opening their business. They set a date to open in April 2020.
Then, the COVID-19 pandemic ensued.
Braced and ready for change
The COVID-19 pandemic continues today, nearly two years after the Mohammad's first opened 9th Street Bistro.
The virus rocked so many businesses — new and old — across the world. Restaurants, coffee shops, book stores, and many other small businesses were forced to get creative to remain open.
Creativity and the willingness to pivot may not come as easy to other business owners as it does for Samir and Rachel, whose business model was already formulated for change.
The award-winning chef and front-of-house connoisseur came up with "Sunday Supper Club." A once-weekly carry-out meal that families could pre-order every Tuesday for pickup on Sundays.
"It was great motivation for me to just be able to come up with something new, but also it was it was fun and challenging because you have to pick foods that can be reheated," Samir said.
The changing of meals every week was an excellent way for the Mohammad's to meet local farmers they eventually wanted to source from when they were finally open. A big appeal of Indiana to the Mohammad's, in general, was the farmland.
"We knew we didn't want to be down on Mass Ave or Broad Ripple. We knew our niche was kind of suburb-y," Samir explained.
The owners want to not only be close to the places their food items are sourced from, but they also hope to have a farm of their own one day.
"I don't know that I found a more charming downtown in Indiana yet," Samir said of downtown Noblesville. "We have an opportunity to get into a place, really grow our business, and grow with the town."
Finally opening to guests
When guests sit down for dinner at 9th Street Bistro, they'll notice bookcases intricately placed between tables. On the shelves, diners will find cookbooks Samir and Rachel draw from for inspiration for the menu. Cookbooks with all sorts of fare.
The well-traveled couple enjoys cuisines worldwide and doesn't want to conform to any particular style or setting.
"It's a delicate kind of balance you have to find to meet your market, I guess," Rachel said. The Hoosiers native does everything front-of-house, including management. "The Supper Club that year and a half of the pandemic actually allowed us to do all that market research while we were open and found that we can push the envelope. We could meet our market a little bit, in a different spot than we originally thought we might have to."
Samir has been in the culinary world for two decades, cooking in kitchens in several countries. His resume beams with a list of accolades such as cooking in the James Beard Kitchen in New York City and being a consultant for Pegasus Lodges.
"Our first menu, what we were planning before the pandemic, is completely different than what we're doing now," Rachel said, laughing.
Their ever-changing blackboard of menu items and cocktail options is a way to effectively source locally as the seasons change, as well.
Guests will find their wine list full of organic or natural wineries that are small and sustainable vineyards. The same goes for the spirits. For instance, instead of carrying Jack Daniels whiskey, they have Uncle Nearest.
And, of course, their produce is specially sourced as well. However, the item the owners are most excited about is their dry-aged beef.
"So, we bring in whole loins and I dry-age them in-house myself for two weeks. And that just helps develop some of the marbling and gets the meat quality to where I want it. And we're serving a one-pound chunk of meat, which is going over really well," Samir said.
Conforming or remaining stagnant isn't a viable way of life or business for the Mohammad's, which is why you'll find their menu changing every one to two months.
You also may find them switching up the interior of 9th Street Bistro. As of this article, the restaurant has lights hanging down the middle, perfectly illuminating the exposed brick. The quality wooden tables are accented with lots of plants and intricate trinkets.
"This is just the beginning," Rachel said. "We're excited to be in Noblesville. We already have ideas for other concepts here. And were excited to be part of Noblesville during this great change."
9th Street Bistro
56 S 9th Street
Wednesday - Saturday: 4:30 p.m. - close. Reservations recommended