Skyward Grille ready to open in UA

Beth Stallings, Columbus Crave

The street food cart experience will move indoors on April 1 when Skyward Grille opens in Upper Arlington. It's a concept from the owners of a longtime collection food carts found regularly on Ohio State and Columbus State campuses, as well as on Lane Avenue during football game days.

Owners Mike and Jennifer Ratliff (Mike's side of the family has owned the company since the '80s) have been tinkering with a restaurant concept for nearly a decade, and so they are ready to celebrate. On opening day, expect a range of giveaways-from gift cards and free combo meals to the chance to win a free meal once a week for a year.

At the fast-casual Skyward Grille, diners can interact with the cook at the griddle and opt to build their own dish or choose from a list of specialties. Then guests can grab one of 50 seats inside the blonde and gray open dining room, or, when the weather warms up, a spot on the 30-seat stone patio.

"We're definitely bringing the street food experience indoors," Jennifer says. "Customers get to talk to grill cooks, just like at the cart. [Our cook's] personalities are so fun."

The menu is an expansion of their food cart offerings, so expect to see items like gyros, pulled pork, cheesesteaks, Ezzo brats and grilled chicken sandwiches. But with the brick-and-mortar space, comes the ability to add dishes, Jennifer says. Look to the sides for new offerings, including house-made fries or chips topped with Skyward Grille's secret sauce-a creamy tzatziki-style sauce-known as Sky Sauce. (It's been a signature since the carts opened.) There's also a five-item kids' menu (think hot dogs and grilled cheese pitas). Bread for subs will come from Auddino's Bakery and cookies and brownies will be sourced from The Original Goodie Shoppe.

For Jennifer, opening at the corner of Riverside and Trabue is personal, too. Years ago, her family owned the stretch of property on Riverside Drive, and operated a restaurant, club and banquet complex called Gloria's. The facility was owned by her great aunt (her grandmother used to work here and her parents wedding reception took place in the banquet hall).

That's why, when you walk into the foyer (where the handicap entrance and bathrooms are located) you'll see black-and-white historical photos of the nearby San Margherita neighborhood and pictures of Jennifer's family at Gloria's. Inside Skyward, look for old photos of Scioto Country Club and famous golfers like Jack Nicklaus (including his business card from his short stint in insurance sales).

The open space next door could be home to a local coffee or dessert shop (they have a letter of intent from a local coffee company, but nothing formal in the works yet). But if no one has moved into that space in the next six months or so, they are going to go ahead an open a space of their own, Jennifer says.

Skyward Grille will be open 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Saturday. The restaurant is located at 2185 Riverside Dr., Upper Arlington, 614-221-9263,