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Uptown, Edgewater, Rogers Park

After More Than A Decade, Edgewater’s Zanzibar Cafe Is Closing — But Will Reopen With A New Name

The cafe is being sold to two brothers who work at Zanzibar.

After almost 11 years in business, the Zanzibar Cafe will be closing.
Jonathan Ballew/Block Club Chicago
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EDGEWATER — After almost 11 years in business, Edgewater’s Zanzibar Cafe is closing this Memorial Day.

But for those who have come to depend on the cafe, not to worry: another cafe will open in its place.

Owner Ken Gasch was there an employee at Zanzibar, 1036 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., when the cafe first opened, and bought it nearly five years ago from its previous owners.

“I’m really sad to be leaving,” he said. “The closer it gets, the more the reality is setting in.”

Gasch sold the spot because a family emergency is bringing him home to Cleveland. He said he no longer could effectively manage the cafe while supporting his loved ones in Ohio.

Gasch sold the cafe to Mahir and Haris Krijestorac, who both already work at Zanzibar.

“I really wanted to keep the cafe in the family,” he said.

Gasch said the cafe has given him many happy memories over the years. He especially loves the Edgewater location.

“I have really grown to love the neighborhood and all of its quirks and oddities,” he said.

Gasch said the Zanzibar Cafe was a place that always had a lot of regulars. Employees would often have orders ready before certain patrons arrived.

Credit: Jonathan Ballew/Block Club Chicago
Owner Ken Gasch (right) with one of his favorite regulars, Steve Millard (left)

Gasch has been slowly sharing the news of the cafe’s closing with his regulars. One man asked Gasch if he could buy a painting that hangs above his favorite booth. Gasch said the regular spent many long days studying there during graduate school and wanted to memorialize his time at Zanzibar.

“We have a picture of a neighbor’s dog on the wall,” he said. “It’s a big family where everyone looks out for each other.”

When selling the place, it was important to Gasch to “keep things friendly and local.” He said he really wants the new cafe to remain a staple of the neighborhood.

“When I was selling the place, it kind of felt like, ‘What are your intentions with my daughter?’” he said.  

Gasch had four potential buyers, but the Krijestorac brothers were the only ones who knew the cafe’s “vibe and energy.”

“We had better monetary offers, but we passed them by in order to preserve the legacy [of the cafe],” he said.

By keeping the cafe in the Zanzibar family, Gasch is hoping all of his favorite regulars will return to enjoy the new space when it reopens.

“It’s important to me that it stays a neighborhood place.”