Court Street Grille has been a staple of downtown Lincolnton since it opened in 2003. Now, owner Osama Yousef is looking to expand on the restaurant’s success by opening a second location in Catawba County.
Yousef told the Times-News on Wednesday that he expects the new restaurant, located in a shopping center in Mountain View, to be up and running in five or six weeks, provided there are no new roadblocks to delay the process. As of now, he’s already overcome a few.
He came close to opening a second restaurant about five years ago, even having the blueprints ready to go. However, his wife, Carrie, became pregnant, and they decided it would be best to put the plans on the back burner for the time being. And, Yousef added, the rising food costs didn’t help matters.
On top of that, his current plans were temporarily delayed due to some issues with getting the blueprints approved by Catawba County. However, he’s finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, and he’s ready for the challenge.
He has never run two restaurants at the same time, but the self-described “workaholic” said the chance to do so was one of the reasons for opening the Mountain View location.
“I want to see if I can do it,” he said.
Yousef, who resides with his wife in her hometown of Vale, along with their three children, is also only about five minutes away from the new restaurant.
In addition to proximity, another factor that played a role in the decision of where to relocate for Yousef was what restaurants were already in a particular town. He noted that he wanted to choose a location where he could offer something different.
“I don’t want to cause any trouble,” he added, saying he doesn’t like to have any “issues” with competitors.
The new restaurant, which will be about half the size of Lincolnton’s Court Street Grille, will have the same menu, the same open kitchen and the same general concept. It will even have the same sauces and dressings, specially prepared by Yousef.
Most importantly, it will have the same, family-friendly environment that has allowed Court Street Grille to thrive over the years.
“It’s truly a family business,” Carrie Yousef, who handles payroll, scheduling, reservations and other paperwork, told the Times-News.
“She keeps me sane,” Osama Yousef joked of her other role in the business.
Her father also did all of the woodwork at the Lincolnton restaurant, something he does as a hobby. Additionally, the grandparents often serve as babysitters, while Osama’s brother works in the kitchen.
“It was built by a family, for family,” Osama Yousef added.
He is still shocked by the restaurant’s success, saying it’s been “busy from day one.”
“It’s been an amazing ride,” he said.
It’s a ride that started when Yousef, originally from the Middle East, came to the United States in 1989. While in college in Greensboro, he worked at five different restaurants, cooking, washing dishes and everything in between.
“It was good and bad,” he said of that time in his life. “I didn’t sleep.”
But it allowed him to work with plenty of “great people,” in addition to learning a lot about the restaurant business. If given the chance, he said he would do it again.
It was also in Greensboro that he met Carrie, and the couple eventually came to the Lincolnton area in 1999. He had already operated a restaurant in Greensboro with his brother and one in Spring Lake that he eventually sold, which is still open to this day.
After “retiring” from the business for about two years, his interest was sparked when a prime spot on Court Square opened up for rent. As he said, the restaurant business was still in his blood.
“There’s so much potential here,” Carrie Yousef added.
The couple now owns the property. They expanded on the building when they added the side dining room six years ago, and Yousef also alluded to other plans for its future.
Part of those plans includes their new venture in Mountain View.
The building had to essentially be demolished on the inside to comply with their vision. Nonetheless, Yousef said he already has hopes for future growth there. The kitchen is big enough to handle an expanded dining room, he said.
It will be run by about 20 employees, some from the current location who live closer to the Mountain View restaurant and some new ones who will be training over the next few weeks in Lincolnton to get ready for the opening.
With Lincolnton having been his sole customer base over the last decade, Yousef’s feelings of gratitude toward the city are immense.
“I could not ask for a better town; I could not ask for a better clientele,” he said.
He even wants to extend his support to other businesses looking into opening up in the area, to offer them a helping hand in what he knows can be a daunting task.
Despite 23 years of experience in the restaurant business, he said there’s plenty more he wants to do.
“I’m still learning,” he said. “I’m still a student.”