Restaurant and hookah spot Samsara replaces Bliss ReBAR in downtown Phoenix | Phoenix New Times

Persian restaurant, hookah lounge Samsara replaces Bliss ReBAR

More than a year after the closure of Bliss ReBAR, there's a new restaurant, bar and hookah lounge in its place. Meet Samsara.
Owner Ali Yousafzai hopes to make Samsara stand out from other hookah lounges with its halal menu and full bar.
Owner Ali Yousafzai hopes to make Samsara stand out from other hookah lounges with its halal menu and full bar. Samsara
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A new restaurant, bar and hookah lounge has opened in the former location of Bliss ReBAR at the corner of Fourth and Garfield streets in downtown Phoenix.

Samsara, which offers Persian cuisine, craft cocktails and a variety of tobacco and hookah options, opened in June. Owner Ali Yousufzai says he has wanted to create a comfortable, welcoming space where people "feel at home and experience a different culture."

"Roosevelt Row is the cultural district of Arizona. I feel like it's the perfect area because we get people from all over coming here and we have different cultures. We're like a melting pot," says Yousufzai, who emigrated to Phoenix from Afghanistan when he was a child. "We can all learn even more about each other and experience different foods, culture, music."

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Samsara is bringing Persian food and hookah to Roosevelt Row.
On the menu, which is halal, are chicken and lamb skewers and hummus, as well as shareable bar snacks like spinach and artichoke dip, wings and ceviche. Yousufzai says he is planning to expand the menu over time, adding items such as falafel and koobideh, a kabob made of ground beef, onions and spices.

Samsara's cocktail menu is agave-forward, with options including a spicy mezcal paloma and La Toxica, a combination of tequila, Ancho Reyes chile liqueur, agave, lime and tamarind Jarritos with a Tajin rim.

Yousufzai imported hookahs from around the world along with various blends of flavored tobacco – and guests can create their own custom blends. He hopes to highlight the social nature of hookah and cultivate a "chill lounge" vibe.

"The music isn't too loud where you can't hear the person next to you," he says.

Yousafzai hopes to stand apart from other lounges by eschewing a nightclub vibe (though Samsara is open late, serving food and hookah until 4 a.m. on the weekends) and by offering a full food menu and bar.

The name Samsara refers to the circle of life and it's a concept that is at the front of Yousafzai's mind as he launches the restaurant and lounge in the space that was home to Bliss ReBAR for 12 years.
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Bliss ReBAR closed in May 2022 after 12 years.
Melissa Fossum
The popular downtown bar closed in May 2022. A favorite LGBTQ+ hangout, Bliss ReBAR drew crowds for brunch and drag shows, or simply to sip a cocktail on its expansive, welcoming patio.

“My favorite place in the entire building is the patio," Yousafzai says.

As a nod to the former tenant, he has named both a cocktail and a hookah blend Bliss. The drink features dark rum, coconut rum, orange, pineapple, grenadine and lime. The Bliss blend has flavors of strawberry, kiwi and gummy bears. It's one way he can honor the past while launching this new chapter with Samsara.

“We’re all intertwined," Yousafzai says. "I want everybody to feel welcome here."


901 N. Fourth St.
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