FULTON CANAL – A new canteen breathes new life into a former dining space in the city.
Uncle Ray’s restaurant and bar is set to open this month in the former Grayce Ann’s restaurant at 2176 Locust St.
Reda Smaili, better known as Uncle Ray, said the family restaurant’s menu will feature everything from pizza and burgers to seafood and Middle Eastern dishes that pay homage to his native Lebanon.
Fulton Channel City Manager Dan Bucher Jr. is happy to see the new restaurant replace Grayce Ann’s.
“It’s a pretty exciting time for the city,” Bucher said of the new business coming to town. “With Cornerstone (on the Canal) and Canal Life (non-profit) there are a lot of good things happening.”
Several new businesses are planned for the city, including Velocity Sports and a new wedding venue, he said.
Achieve an American Dream
Smaili, who moved to the United States in 1999, acquired some of his culinary skills while working at a local Italian restaurant.
As his dream of opening his own restaurant began to grow, he returned to his native country last year to hone his skills and learn new cooking skills.
After spending four months traveling the country, he was equipped with what he needed to open his own shop.
“I went elsewhere and learned how to cook seafood and other dishes,” Smaili said.
Customers will see Middle Eastern dishes such as hummus and lamb shanks on the menu.
Smaili put his name on his signature Mediterranean salad. Uncle Ray’s salad includes tomatoes, green peppers, carrots, olives and herbs including parsley. It’s topped with his own special dressing, which he compares to an Italian dressing.
Other items not to be missed on the menu: liver and sautéed steaks. Stir-frying is how the liver should be prepared, he said.
All entrees will be served with rice, Smaili said. Rice comes in many different forms, from basic Middle Eastern rice with vermicelli to rice with vegetables or ground beef.
Her children’s macaroni and cheese is made from A to Z.
Along with menu items, Smaili said, he will be offering specials throughout the week.
“It’s my dream,” he said of his new venture. “There will be a lot of home cooking.”
The recipes were created by Smaili with a close friend who lives overseas, he said.
About 12 people will occupy the restaurant, including two chefs, he said.
The renovated space features modern flooring and decor. A private room can be rented and can accommodate large groups. The restaurant seats 85 people, he said.
In the future, Smaili hopes to hold events for pay-per-view fights and special sporting events.
The restaurant will be open from 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. from Tuesday to Sunday and will be closed on Monday.
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