Simply Southern, a Belmar restaurant owned by Rasheed Simmons and his mother, Rita, is closing.
The pair opened the restaurant, where Rita cooked Southern family recipes like oxtails, smothered chicken, hush puppies and fried green tomatoes, in 2014. It will close Friday, Dec. 1.
“We’re coming up on our 10-year anniversary, and it’s been a really slow summer,” Rasheed said. “The cost of goods are up, everything is up, so it wasn’t as busy as it normally would’ve been.
“Going into the winter, we didn’t have that extra fat … that we normally would, so it becomes a struggle.”
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Rasheed said he has been searching for another location where his restaurant wouldn’t be as dependent on summertime traffic. He is looking in Red Bank, Freehold, Long Branch and Old Bridge, “someplace with much more foot traffic because it’s vital to the success of our business.”
“I’m very excited … and I feel as if we reached the level where we couldn’t get any higher,” he said. “I want to level up.”
Rasheed said a restaurant serving Indian cuisine will replace Simply Southern in Belmar Plaza, which is home to many other eateries.
“I know a lot of people like the concept of our plaza … but now we have (many) restaurants, and we’re not Asbury Park or Hoboken where there’s 100,000 people at any given time in a (few) mile radius. At this point, we’re just beating each other up.”
Prior to opening in Belmar, and for more than a decade, Rasheed and Rita owned a small eatery called My Two Sons at the Englishtown Flea Market. They offered catering as well, and became a part of the Belmar community through their presence at Belmar’s annual seafood festival.
“I’m happy to see Mom’s dream come true because this has always been a dream of hers to have her own restaurant, and that’s why we’re going to keep on moving, keep her dream going and doing what we do, just not in Belmar,” he said.
Simply Southern will continue doing catering and events.
“I absolutely love and appreciate all the support, from not just Monmouth County but from the whole state of New Jersey,” Rasheed said.
“We hope we can see everyone before we close the doors, just to give them a hug,” he added. “You can just pop your head in and say hello, so we can say thank you for your support.”
Gabriela L. Laracca joined the USA TODAY NETWORK New Jersey in 2021 and eagerly brings her passion for cuisine and culture to our readers. Send restaurant tips to email@example.com.
Sarah Griesemer joined the USA TODAY NETWORK New Jersey in 2003 and has been writing all things food since 2014. Send restaurant tips to firstname.lastname@example.org, follow on Instagram at Jersey Shore Eats and subscribe to our Jersey Shore Eats newsletter.
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