Jackson — Capital City dining institution Que Sera is expanding its reach to the suburbs. The restaurant opened a second location in Flowood in October with plans for a third Que Sera in Madison after the first of 2006.
Jeff Murray, manager of the new Que Sera, said that the company had already begun exploring the possibility of a Flowood expansion when Xan’s Diner closed its Lakeland Drive location. Workers gutted the interior and began building booths, outdoor dining areas and an exhibition-style kitchen behind the bar so patrons can get a behind-the-scenes peek at the kitchen staff at work.
“Guests will be able to sit around the bar and watch the food being prepared,” Murray said. “It’ll be a good opportunity for the diners to see how a restaurant looks on the inside.”
Kitchen manager Pat O’Quinn said that the concept should be an eye-opener to customers on how particular Que Sera is about its fresh ingredients and made-from-scratch offerings.
“It’s different, but it’s cool, “ he said. “We’re confident in what we do. They’ve gotten to see the final product — now they can see what all we do.”
Sixteen years in business at the State Street location has brought Que Sera a devoted downtown following. In its Best of Jackson 2005 issue, readers of the Jackson Free Press voted Que Sera winners for Best Gumbo, Red Beans and Rice, Outdoor Dining and Weekend Brunch.
Murray said the restaurant plans to distinguish itself from the crowd with its longstanding reputation and unique New Orleans-inspired menu.
“The great thing is we’ve already got the concept of Cajun and Creole cuisine with your traditional American dishes,” he said. “The fun is that you have so many other concepts there, but nothing like us.”
Murray said that the new location represented a chance to reach out to new customers in Rankin County and offer a different option to their regulars.
“We hope the customers from our downtown lunch hour will bring their families out here at night,” he said.
The new location seats 70-80 people inside, with an additional 100 seats available on the dining patio, complete with a Que Sera tradition — the outdoor fire pit.
Que Sera hopes to do a robust lunch business on Lakeland Drive — located right next to the Blue Cross/Blue Shield offices, right in the middle of the hospitals and other medical facilities that line the highway. Dining hours started off from 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, with closing time at 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday for the kitchen and midnight for the bar.
Since Rankin County only allows sales of beer and light wine, patrons used to the libations offered at the State Street location will have to adjust their habits somewhat, but Murray doesn’t see that as a problem for the Flowood location, citing the fact that all restaurants along the Lakeland Drive corridor operate under the same rules as far as alcohol sales go.
Flowood Mayor Gary Rhoads noted that the failure of the last liquor referendum in the county hasn’t hurt restaurant development in his city and is glad that restaurant owners are taking another look at the issue.
He points to the performance of several restaurants surrounding Dogwood Festival such as Logan’s Roadhouse and Chick-fil-A as proof that food sales alone can go a long way towards a restaurant’s success.
“That was the leading Logan’s for food sales in the United States last year,” Rhoads said. “People on this side of the river have money and like to eat,” Rhoads said.
Contact MBJ contributing writer at Julie Whitehead at email@example.com.