Skyward Grille

Owners aim to bring street food to indoor setting

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PAUL VERNON/THISWEEKNEWS
Mike and Jennifer Ratliff are owners of the new Skyward Grille restaurant that will open April 1 on Riverside Drive. Until now, Skyward Grille has sold "street food" from mobile food carts in central Ohio.
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Before the food truck craze hit Columbus, there was Skyward Grille.

Since 1987, it has served gyros, hot-grilled sandwiches, brats and a variety of "street food" from mobile food carts at sites such as the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, Columbus State Community College and the Memorial Tournament in Dublin.

Mike and Jennifer Ratliff, natives of Hilliard and Dublin, respectively, bought into the company in 1996 and have been part of its evolution into the catering industry and a partnership with Aramark Food that allows Skyward's foods to be sold in corporate cafeterias throughout central Ohio.

Now, the couple is making a foray into dine-in food service and will open the Skyward Grille at 2185 Riverside Drive in Upper Arlington on Tuesday, April 1.

The 2,300-square-foot restaurant, located at the former site of the Gloria Nightclub, will seek to stick to its roots while offering the "street-cart experience" under roof, according to its owners.

"People are enjoying that," said Jennifer Ratliff, who also serves as Skyward Grille's marking and human resources manager. "They can come in and get that same feel; the customers can talk with the cook as they order, but they can get a table, enjoy the air conditioning or our patio."

Skyward's dine-in menu -- centered on hot-grilled sandwiches, salads, gyros and sausages -- primarily will mirror that of its mobile food carts, with a few extras, the Ratliffs said.

The restaurant also will serve as a headquarters for its mobile and catering businesses, while employing 25 to 30 people.

It will operate from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., and the Ratliffs hope it will add convenience for loyal customers who live in northwest Franklin County.

"We chose Upper Arlington because our heavy client base for special events and parties was in Upper Arlington, Hilliard and Dublin," Jennifer Ratliff said. "To our knowledge, we're the first of our kind, certainly in central Ohio, to bring the street food concept inside."

Along with a patio, Skyward's exterior was designed with an "urban-industrial look," the couple said.

Inside, there are several flat-screen TVs, and plans were in place last week to install photos harkening the local community's heritage. Additionally, a mural capturing the Ohio State University football experience along Lane Avenue on game days was in the works.

"This will be face-to-face service, the 'I'm cooking for you' concept," said Mike Ratliff, Skyward Grille president. "There will be no charge for extras (like toppings).

"There are a lot of menus that look like they have a cheaper price point, but it's extra for this, extra for that."

Following the April 1 opening, there are tentative plans to host a Skyward Grille ribbon-cutting event April 8.

The Ratliffs also currently are marketing approximately 950 square feet of tenant space attached to the restaurant.

"We're looking for a coffee shop or something that would complement the restaurant," Mike Ratliff said.

Additional information about Skyward Grille is available at skywardgrille.com.

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