Uncle Uber's owners Bryan and Kathy Crelly have officially come full circle. Over a decade ago they ran a successful bar called Fat Ted's in the very same building that now houses their "sammich shop". Bryan, a Dallas native, wanted to try living somewhere else for a while, though, so they packed up and headed north to Chicago for seven years. Once they grew weary of shoveling snow, they came back only to find their old building was vacant—and the rest, as they say, was fate.
One year ago, Uncle Uber's opened its doors on Commerce Street to give area lunchers a welcome mom-and-pop alternative to the typical Jimmy John's or Subway. There are no cold cuts or assembly line "sandwich artists" here—Uncle Uber's has staked its claim on neighborhood appetites by offering fresh, high-quality renditions of classic "sammiches" like a Cuban, a shaved rib-eye and a slow-roasted pork banh mi accented with addictive housemade condiments like habanero ranch and "Uber sauce".
So congratulations on surviving one year. A lot of restaurants don't make it this far. How's the first year been?
Bryan: Uhhhh... Tough.
Kathy: (laughs) Lunches have been really good, and we're trying to build our Friday and Saturday night business. I mean, when you own your own business nothing is ever finished; it's a constant work in progress, so I think that's what he means by tough. There's always something we're trying to improve and make better. So yeah, it's been a tough first year but rewarding at the same time, because we get such great feedback from people.
You guys have had prior experience running restaurants in Dallas (Fat Ted's, Uptown Bar & Grill, etc). What made you choose Deep Ellum for Uncle Uber's?
Bryan: Rent. And the neighborhood, it's the only place that still really feels like a neighborhood.
Kathy: We got a really good feel and got a lot of people interested in what we wanted to do, and it seems like they come together as a community a lot. Coming fresh from Chicago we were used to that and were looking for that, so we scoped out a lot of different areas--downtown, Las Colinas, and this was really the only place that gave us that feel. And also it was very attractive to a mom and pop rent-wise—it was very affordable for us to get into.
Was Uncle Uber's well-received by the neighborhood from the get go, or did it take a while to ramp up?
Kathy: They pretty much took us in from day one, they wanted to tell everybody about us, all the apartments wanted menus to put on their doors. They really bent over backwards to welcome us to the community. I think most people want to support mom and pops and they like to come to this area for that reason, because there aren't any chains, everything is individual and unique, and it's definitely something that the community embraces, so we feel really lucky.
You've received a lot of praise from various media outlets. Do you find that draws people in from outlying areas, or are you mostly serving neighborhood folk? Who are your regulars?
Kathy: Monday through Friday lunches it's definitely the downtown business people and hospital people. On Friday and Saturday nights we get a lot of the tattoo artists that work down here coming over, or people that are playing at the Curtain Club. It's really unlike any other place that we've had because there's so many different segments of customers that we have on different days and at different times. It's always different. But we do get people that read about us and come from North Dallas or even Mesquite or Garland.
Does it really feel like it's been a year?
Kathy: We definitely spend a lot of time here. I would say that the first year went pretty fast, it's just the two of us and we are working on so many things. I work a full-time job besides this, then I'm here doing marketing and accounting and helping if they're short-handed in the kitchen. We don't sleep much, which is probably why it seems like it went by so fast—we're always doing something. (laughs)
Any expansion plans for the future? Will we see any Uncle Uber's popping up elsewhere?
Kathy: We never say never. It's always an evolving thing and if we get to the point, I mean this idea of fast casual and really streamlining the process was developed with the idea that we would be able to do more than one, but it's nothing that we're going to force. We want it to be in the right neighborhood--its not going to pop up in every strip center or anything like that. We like it to have character. It's a living, breathing thing to us and you can't put a square peg in a round hole. You have to make sure it's a good fit for the people you're trying to serve. But definitely if the right opportunity presented itself we'd consider expanding.