Your satisfaction is our only source of revenue — so says the menu at Sandra’s Place, the uncontested home of the best soul food in New Haven’s Hill neighborhood.
Starting in November, Sandra’s owners, Miguel and Sandra Pittman, will expand their special blend of home cooking and entrepreneurship to a new downtown location, at the corner of Whitney Avenue and Audobon Street.
Miguel Pittman said he was already planning to open a new location when Bruce Alexander, Yale’s vice president for New Haven and state affairs, visited the current Sandra’s location on Congress Street last fall.
“We sat down and talked about the Hill, what’s going on in New Haven, and then — business,” Pittman said.
University Properties, the subset of the University that leases its retail properties, has been intensively involved in the process, starting with Alexander’s surprise visit last fall. During a period of intense scrutiny from the office of New Haven and State Affairs, Sandra’s Place — and the Pittmans — passed every test.
University analyst Andrea Pizziconi said the Pittmans had the advantage of being local. All but five of the University’s 66 commercial tenants are New Haven-based.
“Good soul food is hard to get,” Pizziconi said. “Beyond that, successful local concepts are the best kind — they’re the easiest to recruit, and they already know the market.”
Despite plans to increase the kitchen space and seating area, Pittman is not planning any drastic changes in the new location. The menu, which currently includes cornbread, fried chicken, ribs, collard greens, candied yams and black-eyed peas, will slightly expand at the new site.
“The style will mirror what we have here [on Congress Avenue], in the flavor and the food,” Pittman said.
Sandra’s Place will still feature its bountiful food for relatively cheap — from $3 for a sandwich to $7-12 dollars for a “dinner,” a massive affair that includes an entree and two side dishes.
The Pittmans started their business in 1989. Three years later, they moved up the street to their current location at 636 Congress Avenue.
Miguel and Sandra pooled money with friends and family to realize their dreams of owning a business. The restaurant remains a family concern — the eldest of the four Pittman children, Shandrea, is waitress at the location on Congress, and Miguel’s father, James Moore, is overseeing renovation of the new space.
Pittman was grateful for Yale’s assistance during the construction phase.
“Yale has made the transition easier every step of the way,” he said.
Delays with an incompetent architect elicited an immediate reaction from Yale.
“When Bruce Alexander heard about it, he called a meeting immediately — problem solved,” Pittman said.
Despite his plans for the new space, Pittman is already looking ahead. Far from resting on his laurels, he is in negotiations with the Bridgeport Chamber of Commerce over possible sites for a third location.
On a busy afternoon, Pittman surveyed his establishment with a proprietary air.
“We’re very comfortable with things just as they are right now,” he said.