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Stelia: New cafe the toast of town

By Susan Shinn
sshinn@salisburypost.com
Step into Stelia, and you may think you’ve been transported to Manhattan.
Stelia ó that’s pronounced “Steel-ia” ó brings an air of big-city sophistication to smalltown Salisbury.
That’s exactly what business partners Juan Correa and Edgar Arias are going for.
“Salisbury has needed a place like this,” says David Jones, who helps out with bartending duties from time to time. “It’s a unique place where you can come and have a good drink in a nice atmosphere.”
Purple lights showcase the glass-top bar. A waterfall behind the bar highlights the restaurant’s name. Walls in shades of brown combine to complement dark oak floors. Intimate tables for two or four are topped with white tablecloths and black placemats.
Everything’s high end ó except the prices.
The menu is basically Mediterranean, but Correa has added in dishes that appeal to the hometown crowd: mini egg rolls for appetizers, Chicken Marsala for those who like Italian, ribs for barbecue lovers.
Other appetizers available now include Tuscan Baked
Brie, Shrimp Cocktail and Angels on Horseback (scallops wrapped in bacon).
Other entrées include Chicken Kabobs, Ajo Shrimp, Baked Salmon, Mediterranean Tilapia and Osso Bucco (veal).
Appetizers range from $6 to $11, with entrées from $10 to $23.
There’s also a nice variety of dinner salads. Dessert choices change each evening.
A wine consultant makes sure the right beverages are offered with the dishes. Stelia serves a half-dozen beers on tap, and more in bottles.
But the restaurant’s signature is its martini bar.
Correa added a martini bar ó a staple in the Big Apple ó because he couldn’t find a place in town that made one he liked. Half the martinis are fairly standard ó others are more unique.
Correa, 28, has high expectations for his food, his beverages and his staff.
The menu will change every couple of months.
“I’m not here for myself,” he says. “I’m here for my clients.”
Correa believes he offers his clients affordable prices. Even with gas prices at an all-time high, he says, “still people want to go out.”
Stelia is a good alternative to driving to Charlotte or other out-of-town restaurants, he says. He may eventually open another Stelia in Charlotte or Mooresville.
Correa got into the restaurant business by building restaurants. Moving to New York from his native Colombia at 16, he found a mentor who saw possibilities in the young man.
Correa built restaurants, gyms, pizzerias and the like for the business owner. He found he had a natural talent for construction. He was inspired to learn to cook when he built the restaurants.
His brother Hugo lives in Salisbury, and when Correa visited, he saw opportunity here.”I did it for someone else, why not do it for myself?” he says of restaurant ownership.
To finance his restaurant, Correa flipped houses. His wife, Sandra, is a manager at Sharonview Bank. Their son, Dylan, is 1a.
“It is a risky business,” he admits, but he’s seen the payoff. “I took the risk.”
He hopes local businesspeople will choose Stelia for meetings; Historic Salisbury Foundation used the restaurant recently for its OctoberTour kickoff.The restaurant can seat up to 100, with more than a dozen seats at the bar.
By the end of the year, Correa will expand the dining room seating to next door, making the present restaurant a bar and lounge.
“I have my own construction company,” Correa says, standing in the expansion area. SPA Construction takes its name from his wife’s initials. “I can make it happen really quick.”Stelia is named after Correa’s favorite lounge in Colombia, a place, he says, “where the owner cares a lot about the customers. That’s why people go there.”
Correa hopes the same will prove true in downtown Salisbury.

Stelia is located at 118 N. Main St. Hours are 5 p.m.-midnight Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday; 5 a.m.-2 p.m. Thursday-Saturday. The restaurant is smoke-free. No hats or T-shirts, please.
For more information, call 704-638-6266 or visit www.steliacafelounge.com.

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