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World famous soul food restaurant headed to St. Pete?

4:25 PM, Jul 15, 2012   |    comments
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ST. PETERSBURG, Florida - Sylvia's Queen of Soul Food restaurant, based out of Harlem, does millions of dollars in sales every single year. It's known across the world as one of the best soul food restaurants in the U.S.

The restaurant is known for its ribs, macaroni and cheese, collard greens, and sweet potato pie. It's a place where celebrities, and even American presidents, feel right at home.

If all goes well, St. Petersburg could be the next location for a Sylvia's soul food restaurant. Mayor Bill Foster announced that a Sylvia's restaurant is heading to the Historic Manhattan Casino along 22nd Street South.

Wengay "Newt" Newton is the vice chair of St. Petersburg's City Council. The restaurant is in his district. He says, "This was a Midtown initiative that was started a long time ago and the citizens -- this is what they wanted. The people that live in this area, they wanted a post office, they wanted a restaurant, they wanted a supermarket, and they wanted a bank. And this is the last of those four to go in, so it will actually be great to come into my own district -- beautiful District 7 -- and be able to sit down and enjoy a meal."

Kenneth Anderson III was walking in the area Saturday afternoon with a stack of resumes looking for work. He says another restaurant is the last thing the area needs. "You know, there's cheap little rinky dink places all over the place. That's why I don't feel like -- if the city is going to do anything positive -- it's not to put another soul food place right here where we're already used to it. They don't even come down here to eat this stuff."

But Newton disagrees, saying the restaurant will fit right into the area, especially since Atwater's Cafeteria on 22nd Avenue South abruptly shut down. It was a local family-run soul food restaurant that was also a favorite with celebrities and regulars alike.

Vivian Covington says, "I miss it, you know, I miss it. But I just thought the location being on the corner there, there wasn't enough parking. It was too congested."

Newton says Sylvia's will bring a lot to the area, especially work. "Initially it's going to create jobs with the build out, and then it's going to have anywhere from 20 to 30 sustainable jobs that the people in this area can actually walk to get, and I think that's important with the unemployment rate with African Americans in the high teens."

The deal involving the restaurant is expected to go before City Council for approval on July 26. If it receives the green light, Sylvia's could open in the fall of 2013.

Meanwhile, Kenneth Anderson III says he landed two job offers over the weekend during his search.

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