Darius Mansoory’s first restaurant in Wilmington was Knuckleheads Saloon in the late 1980s. He’d be the first to tell you that it was aptly named; Darius knew little about running a restaurant in those days.
So, after a few years he sold the place, left town for nearly a half-decade, and returned to repurchase the same building – 1206 Washington St. – at sheriff’s sale. In 1997, the location was reborn as the Washington Street Ale House. Darius had, indeed, learned quite a bit about running a restaurant by then.
The Ale House, which is still going strong after nearly 20 years, was the foundation for Darius’ Cherry Tree Hospitality Group. Mikimotos Asian Grill followed. Then Presto Coffee Bar & Bistro and The Marashino Room – all three located along Washington Street in Wilmington. A few years ago, he expanded his restaurant holdings to Rehoboth Beach with Stingray Sushi Bar & Asian Latina Grill. The former “knucklehead” had become quite the restaurateur.
“When I opened up, I knew it all. I was the best,” Darius told Out & About during a 2012 interview for the Ale House’s 15-year anniversary. “And then the next year went by. I looked at me in the previous year, and I said, ‘Oh, that guy probably didn’t know anything. I know it all now.’ And then the next year goes by, and I look back at myself the year before and say, ‘That guy didn’t know anything.’ Where does it end? I don’t think it’s gonna.”
Unfortunately, it ended much too soon for Darius; he died Dec. 31 of an apparent heart attack while vacationing in Cuba. He was 52.
I knew Darius for all 28 years of this magazine’s existence; saw his shortcomings; was amazed by his resilience; admired his creative intelligence. Darius lived big and had a heart even bigger. The size of his heart is what I’ll remember most.
Let’s hope Darius’ restaurants continue to operate. It would be a fitting tribute.