Last December, I interviewed Abe Caterson about PowerFoods, his meal preparation service, that he opened in spring 2020. At that time, Caterson worked out of The Caterer’s Kitchen, and his success got the attention of Frank Manzano, the owner of Highway House Restaurant and Bar. I talked with Caterson and Manzano about their new partnership at Luka’s Restaurant and Bar at 35 Main Street in Jackson and Caterson’s continued work with PowerFoods.

Abe CatersonCaterson and Manzano are longtime friends, and when Manzano approached Caterson earlier this year about helping him restart Luka’s, Caterson jumped at the opportunity. “The last year has been great,” Caterson said, “and I also had a great opportunity this year to reopen Luka’s.” Manzano was impressed enough with Caterson and PowerFoods to offer Caterson the job of both head chef and fellow partner at Luka’s.

A Brief History

Luka’s originally opened in 2015 as a bakery and deli run by Manzano and his partner Stan Lukowicz, who is also the owner of the National Hotel. Lukowicz named Luka’s after his granddaughter, and in the restaurant’s six years of existence, Luka’s has seen three transitions. The first brought the addition of a kitchen in March 2017.

Six weeks later, the building at 33 Main Street was on fire and Luka’s had to close. By the time they reopened, Luka’s took over the back half of 33 Main Street for a dining room, created a back patio behind the building, built a full bar, and offered Italian food. Despite these changes, the business struggled and Manzano closed the restaurant for a while…until Manzano noticed what Caterson was building with PowerFoods.

Luka's Restaurant and Bar entrance“This opportunity started again because of Abe’s friendship,” Manzano said, and early this year he contacted Caterson to ask him if he would be interested in partnering with Manzano to restart Luka’s with a more traditional menu including burgers, sandwiches, pizzas, and salads. When Caterson looked at what Manzano had planned for the reopening of Luka’s, Caterson was impressed. “It’s a really great space with great upgrades, a nice atmosphere, and a full bar and patio,” he said.

The clincher came when Manzano allowed Caterson to continue working as the owner of PowerFoods and prepare foods in Luka’s kitchen. Manzano is the managing owner and operator of Luka’s, Caterson is the head chef and partner, and Lukowicz is the landlord and a silent partner.

Good Growth, Greater Plans

“Things are going well so far,” he said, and he attributes that to the casual focus for the reopened Luka’s. “We have the only full bar on Main Street with 14 beers on tap,” Manzano explained. “We want more happy hour people, so we made the restaurant more casual and put a lot of couches on the patio.”

Luka's Restaurant and Bar patioCaterson added that opening Luka’s was also important for the community. “We wanted to provide jobs and food for downtown Jackson,” he said, and the response from the community has prompted them to expand their days. “We’re opening on Tuesdays starting this Tuesday from 11:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.,” Caterson explained, “and eventually we want to be open seven days a week.”

Manzano said that when he prepared to reopen Luka’s, he said that he wanted to see how the business was doing after 90 days. Even well before those 90 days are up, Manzano is confident that he’s going to keep Luka’s going at least until spring 2022. What’s more, Caterson is excited about the future. “Our kitchen has a lot of new equipment, and upgrades are coming along quickly,” he said. “The long-term plan is to do more events with banquets, upgrade the building, and expand next door.” That is, to the space at 33 Main Street currently occupied by Delta Engineering.

PowerFoods allows its customers to pre-order anytime and pick up meals at Luka’s on Tuesdays from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Luka’s Restaurant and Bar opened on April 28 and is now open from Tuesdays through Saturdays for lunch and dinner. Manzano will continue operating Luka’s as well as Highway House Restaurant and Bar on South Highway 49 in Jackson. But, Manzano added, that may not last. “Eventually, if Abe wants to own Luka’s, we’ll do that.”

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