'Hip, cool' restaurant sees an opportunity

DOWNEY - Lifelong Downey resident George Efstathiou is no stranger to the restaurant business, as a matter of fact, the 37-year-old property manager was born into it."I grew up with family members cooking, owning restaurants ‚àí my parents moved here from Greece," said Efstathiou whose uncle, Jim Angelopoulos, opened the original Jim's Burgers location in 1958. "We had a family restaurant, Johnny's Restaurant, in Bell...but after my dad passed away in 2002, we sold it. "I think I'm ready to get back in the business," he said with a laugh. Already months into construction, Efstathiou hopes the MarketPlace Grill & Café, a nearly 3,300-square-foot bistro and coffee shop, will bring his newest entrepreneurial dream to pass when it opens for business in late March. Slated to serve a variety of gourmet food items, ranging from paninis and pastas to salads and sandwiches, the MarketPlace, located at 7877 Florence Ave., will feature a fast, casual dining experience where customers order at the counter and later receive their food and beverages at the table. As both owner and manager of the commercial property along Florence Avenue, between Tweedy Lane and Smallwood Avenue, Efstathiou said the new 130-seat eatery will sell everything from hotcakes and eggs to seafood plates and steak dinners. "In the next 30 days, myself along with our chefs and cooks…we'll be putting together the menu," said Efstathiou, who currently leases property to KFC, George's Restaurant and dozens of tenants inside the Courtyard Business Center. "We're excited to get started and provide good food and good service for our neighborhood." Efstathiou said the MarketPlace will have approximately 90 seats inside and 40 seats outside in a landscaped patio area, with water features, that will extend to the corner of Florence Avenue and Tweedy Lane. In addition to drive-thru service, the new restaurant, which claimed the site once occupied by Payless Shoes, also offers customers an espresso bar and imported alcoholic beverages. "We wanted the MarketPlace to be modern - a hip, cool place to be," Efstathiou said. "Times are hard right now. This is probably the worst times to open a business, but I expect to have a good business, a long-term establishment. We get good traffic here and there's not a coffee shop nearby…hopefully, luck is on my side." Initially set to open around the end of 2010, the recent winter rain pushed the $1 million construction project behind schedule. Efstathiou hopes to have the bistro open by the end of March.

********** Published: January 27, 2011 - Volume 9 - Issue 41