2017-04-20 / Cuisine

PA BBQ eyes spot near Sears at The Gardens Mall

Dean Lavallee would open a version of his PA BBQ & Grille in the spot occupied most recently by The Counter. The new location will have a patio and a firepit, he says. It also will have a full liquor license. 
COURTESY PHOTO Dean Lavallee would open a version of his PA BBQ & Grille in the spot occupied most recently by The Counter. The new location will have a patio and a firepit, he says. It also will have a full liquor license. COURTESY PHOTO PA BBQ is going uptown — to the mall.

Dean Lavallee, owner, said his barbecue restaurant from Lake Park will be taking the place of the recently closed Counter Burger in The Gardens Mall.

“Sure, it’s a risk, but I think we’ll do OK there,” he said.

A Gardens Mall spokesperson could not comment on the deal until the lease is signed; Mr. Lavallee said it’s with the lawyers, and expected to be signed this week.

The restaurant would be PA BBQ

& Grille’s eighth location. They have stores from Port St. Lucie to Boynton Beach and out west to Wellington.

Despite the gloom and doom predicted for malls in general, Mr. Lavallee believes they are more viable than ever — for specific retailers.

“We need to touch the things we’re buying. Retail has become all showrooms. The Restoration Hardwares and Crate and Barrels and West Elms all existed before online, but nobody was buying from them. We couldn’t touch the merchandise and didn’t trust it to be shipped, then have to ship it back when it wasn’t right.”

So, he said, “Retail isn’t dead — but it is changing.”

He thinks mall restaurants and quality food service are changing along with it.

“What we’re hearing from the mall is ‘We want recognizable middle-market local brands.’’’

LAVALLEE LAVALLEE That’s PA BBQ , he said, and he’s anxious to answer the call.

“I love that someone is inviting me to the party and I don’t have to kick down the door.”

He first looked at the closed Figs location next to Macy’s west entrance. Parking was a problem and it was too small as well, he thought. And Figs couldn’t get footing, he said — a problem he was about to tackle before thinking better of it.

“I get myself in trouble trying to fix things other people failed at,” he said, laughing.

He’ll instead be on the north side of the mall between Sears and Bloomingdale’s. An outdoor patio will allow a firepit and tables without afternoon sun glare. A patio is a long-held dream for all his new stores, he said.

It also has an outside entrance, which can work to the restaurant’s advantage. He explained he won’t have to rely solely on a mall shopper for a client.

“I’ve been eating a lot at Brio and P.F. Chang’s over the past month. What I’ve noticed is most of their diners come in to eat and leave, and never even go to the mall. I think we’ll attract both (shoppers and destination diners).”

Not to mention the mall’s employees.

“I think they’ll welcome our brand,” he said.

Mr. Lavallee wants to tweak the menu, incorporating farm-to-table foods, and adding a few approachable menu items from what he calls Americana — his childhood eats. A modern take on a Pop Tart is one of them.

“It will be a way to test some things,” Mr. Lavallee said. But the mall owners have asked him to leave the barbecue concept intact and work around its core.

“We can do that. We have the backbone of 28 years of doing what we’re good at. Smoking, grilling and saucing. We still want to champion smoked meats, ethic foods and local foods. We don’t want to get so exotic people can’t recognize the food.”

A full liquor license, also in his longtime plans, is included in the new space, giving him a chance at increased bar business.

He’s looking forward to changes planned for the mall, including the revamped Apple store, which is doubling in size to become one of two Apple superstores in the state. Talk of Dick’s Sporting Goods coming to his end of the mall is a plus for him as well. “Those are my customers.”

He says mall owners are trying to create a one-up experience, bringing in new people and attracting back customers who might have shifted to online shopping. New stores, and new restaurants, such as the recently opened wine bar and restaurant, Cooper’s Hawk, will draw new visitors — a win-win for everyone at the mall, he says.

“It’s exciting for me. Just give me the chance to compete.”

Mr. Lavallee is planning to open within three months.

“The good news and bad news about Dean is that I’m not risk averse,” he said, laughing. “I’m really excited about this. We’re really going to do it.”

In brief

The sun has set for Sun-Hai Tokyo, the 14-year-old Chinese restaurant near Marshall’s on PGA Boulevard. It was time for the owners to retire, according to the note on the door. Even after the plaza was redesigned, the restaurant changed little over the years, adding a sushi bar and refreshing the interior, but leaving untouched its money-papered foyer showing signatures of famous visitors. Its New York-style menu with an early-bird option remained a constant. No word on what might take its place. ¦

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