Natalie's Eats Al's Steak: Al Ahmedus Consolidates His Restaurants

The supremacy of women has once again been made evident -- this time by a man. Al Ahmedus has expanded his first restaurant, Natalie's, into the next-door space once occupied by Al's Steakhouse & Salad, also owned by Ahmedus, in the Preston Royal Shopping Center.

When the steakhouse opened in late 2009, the economy was in the grease trap and people were beginning to cut back on dining. "It was a hard time for us to open a restaurant. We tried to drum up business. There were some good reviews. But it wasn't enough," Ahmedus says.

He did what other proprietors would have done. Ahmedus consolidated his assets by shuttering the meat palace and increasing the square footage of the eatery he opened 21 years ago -- with a catch. The steaks from Allen Bros. in Chicago weren't going anywhere. Much of what was served at Al's has been incorporated into Natalie's dinner menu. Still, the remainder of Natalie's offerings have been left intact. Loyal customers can still lunch on the restaurant's classic fare of Southern staples and dishes that shoot for fine-dining status. But the tony clientele can also order a 12-ounce prime New York Strip with a side of creamed spinach.

Streamlining the operation made sense to Natalie's manager Kate Pirom. "Running two kitchens with two staffs was difficult," she says. "We were concerned with quality control. Besides, the original space was getting too small."

The change has been in effect for three weeks and already Ahmedus has witnessed an uptick in business. "More people are coming in. It's been great," he said. Just goes to show you, don't piss off your lady. It never goes well.

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José Ralat Maldonado