STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — With onion soup au gratin, shrimp ‘n’ grits and a stunning sirloin steak, Sally’s Southern introduced its brand of comfort fare to Forest Avenue. Guests corralled in three outdoor seating areas at a kitchen test-run Tuesday night, allowing the kitchen to work out its kinks. The first official day of business will be Monday, Sept. 28, 2020.
“The practice night is what we always do before opening to the public,” said Peter Botros. He is co-owner of the corner eatery with Phil Farinacci.
Some of the highlights on the menu include chicken-fried steak, a chicken ‘n’ biscuit sandwich with vinegar-based cole slaw and a beefy burger with toppings like bleu cheese and caramelized onions. The restaurant will be open daily for lunch and dinner with a Saturday and Sunday brunch. The weekends will include a create-your-own-chicken-‘n’-waffles dish.
Farinacci explained, “You pick the type of chicken. You pick the type of waffle, You pick the type of sauce.”
On the Tuesday night practice dinner for “friends and family”, Botros quipped, “Rather than doing a soft opening, we choose to go for a chaotic stress test.”
He added, “We have all our friends and family come and push the restaurant, kitchen and service staff to learn where our weaknesses are so that we can adjust before opening day.”
Staff brought a form sheet for guests to fill out as a critique. Botros and Farinacci combed over the comments on Wednesday.
“We had great feedback about our food and definitely learned a lot about what we need to do in order to help make the kitchen more efficient,” said Botros. The upshot: Botros reckons that the 52-item menu (with sides) might ned to be cut down “to increase speed and timing efficiency in the kitchen.”
The moniker “Sally’s” hails from Farinacci’s late mother who passed away last year from cancer. Ten of her recipes were retrofitted to the menu, which is partially written in script with a font that mimics Sally’s distinct handwriting. In fact, the restaurant’s logo and namesake are presented in her actual style of signature. Also as homage to Sally are Polaroid-style images in the foyer of the restaurant.
Farinacci called the start up to the restaurant an “emotional roller coaster” and complimented Botros on the variety of food, menu, design and build-out of the “shrine” to his mother.
“I still barely can walk by it without tears filling my eyes,” he said.
In a residential-looking home, Sally’s has two levels eventually open to the public with prep areas in the basement. The first floor has a bar and lounge, as well as a dining room with a kitchen at the back. There is a curved section of windows that serves as the back of the bar. The bar top itself hails from reclaimed wood floors from an old building in Williamsburg. Outside the eatery features a wrap-around seating area plus tables on a paved area formerly a parking pad. Dining spaces on the second floor are accessible by stairs and an elevator.
Originally the restaurant capacity was supposed to be 120. The final count, at full capacity, would be 110. After Sept. 30 Sally’s will seat 26 guests, as per COVID-19 distancing mandates.
The road to opening Sally’s has been a long one for Botros and Farinacci. The building at 427 Forest Avenue, formerly a rehab center, was supposed to be a full blown barbecue concept as a third Corner House BBQ. That news was shared in June, 2018. Over time, circumstances changed and at one point there was contention over the restaurant’s arrival — this included a formal letter opposing any liquor licenses granted to the premises. But the hullaballoo died down and the liquor license application was put into motion without further opposition.
After COVID-19 broke, the opening was further delayed to September. There are still holdups on the actual license being delivered, said Botros, as one cannot appear in person to fetch it. They await the document in the mail and anticipate the official opening later in the month.
“Sally’s Southern has a bright future and we look forward to being a staple in the West Brighton community for years to come,” said a hopeful Botros.
Farinacci and Botros are partners in two Grant City eateries — Violette’s Cellar and Rustic Pizza and Pasteria — as well as Sofia’s Taqueria in Rosebank and “Sofia’s Guac Bar” at the recently reopened Staten Island Mall. The pair own two upstate restaurants together as well. Botros owns the contract at Stone House in Clove Lakes Park.
Pamela Silvestri is Advance Food Editor. She can be reached at [email protected].