It was announced last September that local restaurateur Robert St. John would be closing the doors to midtown Hattiesburg eateries Branch and Purple Parrot Cafe to develop a new Tex-Mex concept called El Rayo.
St. John, who has been active on social media promoting the new restaurant, said El Rayo, located at 3810 Hardy St., will open this week.
“It was my hope that we could open before the end of the year,” St. John said. “However, the way Christmas and New Year’s fell last year created a challenge.”
El Rayo will be St. John’s 22nd restaurant opening and 19th as owner.
“It took me a while, but I finally learned a few openings ago that it’s better to delay at this point than to scramble after opening,” St. John said. “I’m very happy with the recipe testing so far. This food is really good. I’ve never done this much research and development for any of those previous openings.”
El Rayo offered limited dine-in service last week to get their staff better acquainted with the menu and to train the kitchen team to execute those recipes.
St. John also said that 2020 allowed him to make some changes at Crescent City Grill and Mahogany Bar, two of his other restaurants in midtown.
“Many are things that can’t be seen by the public, but they made a much better – and more efficient – working environment for our team,” St. John said. “We added the Purple Parrot Room for private dining that mirrors the former Parrot and have been hosting private groups in there. We will be doing Purple Parrot pop-up dinners in there on the first Thursday, Friday and Saturday of every month beginning in February.”