When Restaurant Development Group’s trio of real estate experts were looking for inspiration for a new Jersey City restaurant, they found it in Spain.
“Raval, this neighborhood in Barcelona, was once the seedy, down-by-the-port rough neighborhood,” RDG’s Michael Garcia said. “It went through a renaissance and now this once-undesirable place has a thriving arts, entertainment and food scene.
“So it’s not unlike Jersey City.”
Celebrating Jersey City’s story, and improving upon its dining-related chapters, is part of RDG’s goal. That’s important for a company that now — with the opening of Raval Tapas Bar & Cocktail Lounge — has three food and beverage establishments and firmly embedded roots in the city.
“Now, if only we could get (a place like) Raval to open a restaurant called Jersey City,” said Andy Siegel, another RDG partner.
Garcia, Siegel and Geza Gulas make up RDG, a group of former real estate specialists that came together right after the real estate market went belly-up.
When the only takers for commercial spaces were banks and other options they found unattractive, the trio decided to make a splash in the restaurant world by converting a Jersey City building into Satis Bistro in 2009. It’s a European-style restaurant based in a structure first built in 1873, a local butcher shop.
“And we wanted to continue a tradition of being the neighborhood place where people go together,” Garcia said. “We’ve just done it with a little more style to meet some of the needs of today’s neighborhood, but we’re really trying to stay true to its roots.”
Before Satis Bistro, Gulas and Garcia — former partners in the real estate world — paired up to open Lucky 7 Tavern in 2007. They looked at the Jersey City bar as something they could fall back on after they sensed the real estate bubble’s burst was coming.
“It was a place we frequented before we had families,” Gulas said. “We liked it; it was a nice local hangout, an excellent representation of Jersey City. You’d see people in suits, leather jackets, baseball jerseys — all walks of life. It was a mixed clientele and that remained true after we reopened it.”
Between Lucky 7 Tavern and Satis Bistro, RDG had a good platform to start transforming a commercial condo, mixed-used building into another restaurant a year ago.