Food truck turns to dine-in: The Patio owners to open restaurant on the square

Clint and Tiffany Britain of Knotty Workbench Designs install the bar at The Patio, 105 S. Commerce St., in preparation for the restaurant’s soft opening this Saturday, May 30.

Transitioning over from their food truck, Ricky and Laura Williams felt it was best to strike while the iron — or rather, the pizza oven — was hot.

Business has been booming the past few months for The Patio food truck, which features Southern California-style food such as street tacos, burritos and carne asada fries.

Now The Patio is opening a restaurant at 105 S. Commerce St. and is set to have its soft opening Saturday, May 30, ahead of a June 6 grand opening.

Ricky Williams said he first got into cooking when he catered. It was then people began clamoring for his food.

“We just love Southern California food because it’s amazing,” Williams said. “It’s just something I love. That’s really it. I’ve always been good at cooking and I did catering for a while. People kept asking me if I have a restaurant and I didn’t want to do one because of the risk. So I thought of doing a food truck and a friend of mine told me that they were going to redo the Gainesville Farmers Market. If it didn’t work I won’t be poor, but if it does, then let’s think about a restaurant.”

Williams’s goal is to provide food evoking everywhere from coast to coast, including New York-style pizza. Still, keeping the menu on the smaller side is the goal to allow them to focus on making everything high quality and from scratch, including their Italian sausage.

The food truck really took off when it parked at the Gainesville Farmers Market, 201 N. Chestnut St., according to Williams. The farmers market had been closed for more than a year for a more than $2 million overhaul before reopening early the summer of 2019.

“People wanted me to do weddings and they loved the food,” Williams said. “It’s all about location. You have to have foot traffic. There wasn’t a lot of foot traffic at the farmers market a year ago, so what we did was we concentrated on festivals and Summer Sounds was our first big one here in Gainesville. We really pushed catering and we used to go out to Safran two days a week and we would sit in their parking lot.”

The coronavirus did help out The Patio as Williams said their sales quadrupled, but it also impacted opening the restaurant.

“We hoped to open the first weekend in May,” Williams said. “I don’t know if I was really disappointed because when this whole COVID-19 happened, the farmers market blew up. If you go to Chili’s or RibCrib, you go to those places because you want to sit down and eat and that took a lot of places off the board. People started venturing out and once they realized that there were people down there that are making amazing food, it was packed.”

Williams said he thought right now was the time to invest in the restaurant side of things.

“I’ve been an accountant for 15 years and I traveled a lot,” Williams said. “My sons are getting older and my oldest plays football for Lindsay, so I didn’t want to miss those football games. We had that financial ability to make the transition. My wife and I talked about it for about six months and finally we said, let’s do it. We’re very family-oriented and I wanted to make a career transition to allow me to stay at home.”

Williams has always had an entrepreneurial spirit about him and that he said the new location on Commerce Street is something he and his family had been eyeing for a long time.

“It was all about timing really,” Williams said. “I wanted a downtown spot and there just wasn’t anything. All of downtown Gainesville is mainly offices. After about a year on the food truck, I knew we needed to do a restaurant. We kept doing the truck and I kept my eyes open. The Edelweiss Tea Haus closed and we saw a sign that a unit was available and we knew it was time.”

Some of the challenges Williams has dealt with in the past few months has been completely gutting and remodeling the building.

“This building is like 200 years old,” Williams said. “It’s limited on space. Everything was falling apart. That’s has been our biggest challenge. I want the restaurant to bring back the history in the building. We took down the walls down to the original brick that have been here a long, long time. We repaired them and we wanted to bring the authenticity back downtown.”

The Patio will feature a lounge area with three 75-inch TVs and Williams said they plan on hosting fight nights and Dallas Cowboys watch parties.

It will also provide beer and wine, which Williams says will be a crucial addition to The Patio.

“We had to navigate the TABC [Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission] and this place had never had a license before,” Williams said. “The amount of paperwork and steps you had to follow is very intricate. The thing about it is our whole concept is it’s the patio. You want to hang out with your friends and eat some pizza and what better way to do that than an ice cold beer. Beer just goes with pizza and tacos.”

Williams said there are plenty more food ideas and events on the horizon.

“I’m just getting started,” Williams said. “We’re going to have all kinds of stuff. If I want to do something, I’m going to do it. I want people to have fun in here and I just want them to have a good time and enjoy some good food.”

The Patio will open Saturday, May 30, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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