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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Jul. 25, 200212:00 PM EST

Southern Grill owner has high expectations

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by: Monica Chamness

by Monica Chamness

Staff Writer

Joey Farah figures he’s in the right place at the right time.

Four years ago, Farah opened The Southern Grill on the Southbank to capitalize on the anticipated influx from the then-under-construction Skyway.

“I got word that big things were coming,” said Farah. “The Skyway turned out not to bring any business, but I still get all the offices.”

Though the Skyway didn’t shuttle a myriad of hungry patrons to his door, Farah is optimistic about The Strand, two residential towers planned near the Radisson Hotel.

“They’re building condos right here,” he said. “Then I could be open for dinner and maybe seven days a week. Everything coming on this side of the river will be amazing. Now, after 3 p.m., this area clears out but they [Strand residents] would be a dinner crowd. Those condos will generate a whole new business. People can’t afford to eat high-end all the time and I’m the only full-fledged restaurant here that serves food on a hard plate with real silverware.”

Having operated several other similar-type restaurants all over the city, Farah has been able to draw from his experience and make a go of his breakfast and lunch spot. He grew up in the business and has a handful of relatives in the industry. Farah has been in the restaurant business since he was a teenager.

“It’s a lot of hours, 12-15 a day,” he said. “Most challenging is finding help, getting people to serve properly. I can’t do it all by myself.”

Everyday he lists a variety of different chalkboard specials with a broad appeal. He’s most proud of these hearty dishes. In addition to the standard fare, he offers home-cooked meals, vegetable plates, omelettes and grilled food.

Oddly enough, the Southern Grill is frequented heavily by vegetarians. To better accommodate their palate, he offers vegetable selections without any meat products. The dining room seats 80 people with a private dining area in the back for birthday parties and business meetings and he doesn’t charge for groups to use the room as long as they’re eating.

Over the years, Farah has seen a number of companies cycle in and out of nearby locations. With each company that leaves, he loses a few hundred customers but they are replaced by the employees of the new company.

“I have a real good clientele of regular, loyal customers,” said Farah. “Things are only going to get better with everything they’re going to build. It [the extra business] will be more of a bonus than a necessity. I think we’re going to stay here for a very long time.”

Currently, the grill is only open on weekends for special occasions such as football games. But, if the anticipated residential boom actually occurs, Farah will be extending his hours to nights and weekends.

“I have high expectations for it [The Strand] and so do a lot of other businesses in the area,” he said. “Those people are going to need a place to eat. Even if they spend a million on a condo, they may not be able to eat at the Hilton every night.”

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