Downtown Clanton eatery expandingBy Emily Beckett Published 6:29pm Tuesday, June 4, 2013
Executive chef Eric Helfinstine of Helfi’s Grill has seen his restaurant’s customer base grow so much since opening more than two years ago that he needs more space.
After increasing Helfi’s hours of operation and adding more food and beverage variety to the menu in the last year, Helfinstine realized several months ago his single dining room with seating for about 60 people was no longer adequate.
“Close to the first of the year, it just kept getting busier and busier,” Helfinstine said.
Initially, Helfi’s expansion was limited to knocking out several walls inside the original dining room and adding tables and chairs.
But when God’s Anointed Church moved out of the space next door to Helfi’s three months ago, Helfinstine saw an opportunity to expand the restaurant beyond its four walls.
He signed the lease for the second room in March and started construction the second week of April.
His vision is for the space to serve as an event room for large groups and game viewing nights, one of which would be the Iron Bowl each fall.
“I can’t wait to get this side opened,” Helfinstine said of the new space. “Wherever you’re sitting in this room, you should be able to see a TV.”
The room will accommodate about 80 people, bringing Helfi’s seating up to about 140.
Although it won’t have its own kitchen, the room will have a separate drink station and bathrooms at the back.
Helfinstine and several members of his 13-person staff have completed the majority of the expansion project themselves and expect to be finished in late June.
Helfinstine estimated it would cost a total of $30,000, which he is paying with no loan assistance.
The restaurant’s growth and evolution from a small eatery called Seven Place Café to a more spacious restaurant bearing the nickname Helfinstine and his brother Aron were given in high school, “Helfi,” is a testament to Helfinstine’s efforts to make the restaurant his own.
“From where we have started, we have come a long way in two and a half years,” Helfinstine said. “Business is going good. It’s spreading like wildfire.”
Helfi’s Grill is open Monday–Thursday from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Helfi’s is located at 309 Seventh St. N. in Clanton.