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Skyward Grille Food Cart Moves into Brick-and-Mortar

Ayana Wilson Ayana Wilson Skyward Grille Food Cart Moves into Brick-and-MortarPhoto by Ayana Wilson.
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Almost 20 years ago, the first Skyward Grille food carts hit the streets of Columbus. They made gyros, grilled sandwiches, and brats cooked-to-order, and sold them at a reasonable price. Not surprisingly, they became popular on college campuses, regulars at both The Ohio State University and Columbus State Community College.

With a stronghold on mobile catering services, Mike and Jennifer Ratliff, owners of Skyward Grille, have now turned their attention to establishing a physical presence in the community. They will be opening a storefront in Upper Arlington in early April.

skyward-logoThe new restaurant will be located at 2185 Riverside Drive, next to El Vaquero Mexican Restaurant. Jennifer’s family once owned the stretch of dining property along Riverside from Trabue Road, but through the years, the area has been sub-divided and sold off.

Buying the space is like coming home for Jennifer, whose grandmother worked at the restaurant that originally stood in the 2185 spot. Family photos will adorn the walls of the dining room, along with historical pictures of the area amassed with help from the Upper Arlington Historical Society.

The space will also have two entrances, one handicap-accessible, and an outside patio that will seat 24-30 guests. Off to the right of the entrance nearest the patio, there will also be a retail shop operated by another as-yet undisclosed entrepreneur, possibly a coffee shop.

Skyward Grille will also be a drive-thru, where customers will be able to appreciate the awesome view of the quarry behind the store. The 4,500 square feet eatery has room for 50 guests inside and two televisions. There will also be a hand-painted mural on one of the main walls, most likely depicting an Upper Arlington scene.

What will set Skyward Grille apart from other mobile food setups that have moved into a restaurant is the street-like quality that will still be maintained. Yes, customers will go through a line where they’ll be able to customize their meals, but how they do that is what will make the difference.

Instead of ordering a dish that gets made in a kitchen and brought out, guests will actually be able to interact with the grill cook preparing their meals. One of the most crucial parts of any food cart’s success is the synergy created with the diner, and it’s what the Ratliff’s wanted to be sure not to lose.

“We really want to capture and recreate the street experience here,” shares the Ratliffs. “We’re the largest and oldest mobile grill company in the city because we’ve been doing it the best and we’re going to continue to put on that kind of show when we open.”

The kitchen at Skyward Grille will be led by Head Chef Ty Richmond and Chef Kevin Fitzsimons. The menu will closely resemble the one used by the carts, but customers can expect more specials and elevated daily items. Cost will also be comparable, a bit higher than the carts to offset brick-and-mortar costs.

Skyward Grille will still continue to operate its three vans and five carts which cater events all across the city, from graduation parties to weddings. They will be expanding their to-go catering options, as well as adding online ordering to their impressive lineup.

Their hours of operation will be Monday-Saturday, 10:30am – 9pm. They will be closed on Sundays. The Ratliffs are also planning events to coincide with the launch, which should be in the first week of April.

To see more of Skyward Grille’s progress, visit www.skywardgrille.com.

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