Despite a rough economy, Alex Parra wasn’t afraid of taking a risk as long as he achieved his dream of opening a restaurant.
Just a few weeks ago, Parra, 31, left his job as a kitchen manager at the Yard House Coral Gables to open A&G Burger Joint at 646 SW 109th Ave. in Sweetwater..
“I’ve always loved food,” he said. “My dream has always been to run a restaurant.”
Parra and his wife of five years, Grethel Parra, 28, opened up the business with live music on the chilly evening of Dec. 22.
“I love burgers,” said Alex Parra, a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu in Miramar. “It’s one of my favorite foods. I wanted to do something different.”
The location once housed a Nicaraguan and Peruvian restaurant. It is located at Britney’s Plaza, along with a dollar store and pharmacy. The Plaza is owned by Alex’s sister, Clara Parra. The restaurant offers a 1950’s feel with a checkered colored wall painting and pin up girl frames on the wall giving at an old school look and feel.
A&G Burger Joint, which are the initials for the couple’s first names, serve fresh ingredients with half a pound of angus-certified beef, French or sweet potato fries and a choice different burger buns for about $10. All sauces are homemade.
“In other places, you’ll pay $18, but here you get the nice retro feel, the futuristic kind of feel restaurant and you only pay 10 bucks,” he said.
The couple knows the area well, as both attended Coral Park Senior High School and currently live in the Westchester area. For now, Alex is the main chef and Grethel helps him out, when she isn’t teaching at Miami Heights Elementary.
“I’ve been there every step of the way from the moment he said he wanted to leave his job,” she said. “The reason I supported him is because I believe in him. I know that what he does he is the best at it.”
The couple is targeting the student market from Florida International University, whose main campus is just a few blocks away.
“We are setting a statement,” he said. “I know there’s a lot of talk of the future. The college is next to us and it’s a good idea to move in.”
They offer a 15 percent discount to FIU students, police officers and firefighters.
Before opening the business, Alex worked as an executive sous chef for Clevelander South Beach Hotel and Bar and a kitchen manager for the Grand Lux Café in Sawgrass Mills Mall in Sunrise.
He decided to focus on burgers, since almost everyone likes them.
“I started thinking of crazy ideas of putting fresh ingredients,” he said. “You have Five Guys Burgers and Fries, but it’s a glorified Burger King.”
The restaurant’s menu has a long list of choices to pick from. Patrons can choose a B.Y.O.B., which stands for build your own burger. There will also be a vegetarian menu. Appetizers like Buffalo wings, calamari and chicken tenders also are served. There are also salads, wraps and a list of domestic and craft beers to choose from. The burger is served on a rectangular plate, while the fries are served on a metal cone holder. Breakfast will be served. There will be a chalkboard menu. Teas, desserts and coffee will also be available.
The Creature Burger Challenge will feature a 5½ pound burger. Participants have 45 minutes to eat the burger and fries. If the challenge is completed, the meal will be on the house.
Alex Parra is excited about making his dream come true.
“To me the most important thing is service more than is the food,” he said. “I feel it will be successful.”