Chef Dallas McGarity, longtime executive chef at Marketplace Restaurant and veteran of spots like Equus and Z’s Fusion, is leaving to open his own restaurant, The Fat Lamb Modern Kitchen and Bar. His first solo venture will be located 2011 Grinstead Drive, currently home to Fontleroy’s.
Fontleroy’s owner Scott Dennsion inked a deal Tuesday afternoon to sell the restaurant’s equipment to McGarity and allow him to take possession of the space on Oct. 1. The price of the transaction was not disclosed. McGarity will lease the space from Grinstead LLC, which is owned by the Riley family.
On Sept. 18, the change will bring an end to Fontleroy’s 13-month run. Despite great anticipation and early promise, things began to stumble there by the spring of 2016. Dennison’s partner, Allan Rosenberg, created an ambitious menu loaded with costly ingredients—a combination that was difficult to sustain in a highly competitive and labor-strained market. The addition of its daily Biscuit Social breakfast didn’t spur sales appreciably.
Rosenberg left Fontleroy’s in June to work as a consultant chef at Citizen 7 in Norton Commons, and help develop the menu for Parlour, a pizza concept to be opened by the partners behind Citizen 7. Just last week he left that position to become culinary director over Anoosh Bistro and Noosh Nosh. (Click here for that story.)
Dennison’s restaurant background includes roles as an early Papa John’s franchisee, a Huddle House operator and the lone Louisville Uncle Maddio’s Pizza franchisee. When that concept fell short of expectations, he closed it and took a stab at the independent market with Fontleroy’s. The end of that business coincides with the end of his lease at the site.
Dennison called the sale to McGarity “a perfect situation for him. It’s like he’s getting the keys to a late model used car. And it’ll be a turnkey with his personal touches and ideas. I think it will be excellent for him and the space.”
Expectedly, McGarity is excited about the move, calling restaurant ownership, “scary, but all mine.” He said changes will be mostly aesthetic alterations, but nothing major.
“Right now it’s all white, all wood, all concrete and metal, and that’s loud,” said McGarity. “My wife is a commercial interior designer, so that’s going to help. Right now she’s looking into sound deadening materials we can use to help the noise.”
Whether McGarity retains any Fontleroy’s employees remains to be seen. He said taking over an existing staff can be difficult if some can’t shift gears to the boss’s ideas.
“I think the staff has a lot of potential, but I think part of the problem with Fontleroy’s was that they didn’t have the leadership behind them,” McGarity said. “I’m going to talk to some who are there and see if they’re onboard with my vision.
“But really, the staff issue is not that big a deal for me. I have people who will want to come along with me.”
That includes his sous chef from Marketplace, Brad Menear, who’s worked alongside McGarity for eight years.
“We get along really well,” he said. “It’ll be fun to bring him.”
Replacing McGarity at Marketplace will be Zach Young, longtime sous chef at Ward 426. No word on his replacement at the Highlands restaurant.
McGarity said the menu for the Fat Lamb is far from finished, but said it’ll center on small plates and lean toward Southern influences.
“I want a lot of smaller portions made from super high-quality ingredients,” he said. “It’ll be creative cuisine, but accessible, not off-putting. People will understand it.”
He envisions having “a good cocktail program, but nothing psycho. I don’t want people taking 10 minutes to make a drink.”
Fat Lamb will be open for lunch and dinner, Tuesday through Saturday, and serve brunch on Sundays.