The long-running Meridian Café closed Sunday in St. Matthews, but chef-owner Kristin Fults isn’t leaving the business. In four weeks, she’ll open Melrose Café, a breakfast and lunch restaurant at 13206 Hwy. 42 in Prospect. A former candy store, the strip center site is located about 100 yards from where the Melrose Inn stood for decades.
Fults called Melrose Café a Meridian-like spot, though only bigger, “and with tons of parking. Not having that was one of the bigger challenges we faced in St. Matthews.”
El Taco Luchador will replace it sometime later this year, according to OLE Restaurant Group partner and executive chef, Fernando Martinez. He declined to discuss the venture further until plans for a facility overhaul are drawn up. Its opening would mark the city’s second ETL.
Martinez has said in the past that the modern taqueria will become a growth vehicle for ORG.
Fults said changing Meridian into an ETL will require significant upgrades to the restaurant’s kitchen, since equipment such as exhaust hoods and underground grease traps will be required to execute its menu. She considered doing those during her three-year run there but deemed the investment too high.
“To add some protein options to the menu like I wanted, the St. Matthews restaurant would require a lot of investment I wasn’t willing to make,” she said. Recent openings in St. Matthews of Panera Bread, First Watch and Highland Morning also led her to move on. “I was still pleased that we could keep ticket times to 8 to 10 minutes … while cooking on a four-burner residential stove.”
The 3,200 square-foot site will seat 80 people comfortably at tables, a coffee bar and in a coffee lounge area. It’ll have a modern kitchen “with a whole lot more space than I had before.” Fults declined to discuss terms of the lease, but said she was pleased with the deal.
She’s also excited about its location just shy of the dividing line between Prospect and Goshen, where restaurant options are few. Located in the strip center that’ll house Melrose Café are Dragon Café and Burning Bush Café.
“The nearest breakfast places are Dairy Queen and Gracious Plenty,” she said.
Those two, plus Prospect Breakfast Club, are located six miles from her location; about double that for Verbena in Norton Commons. A Thornton’s next door does bustling trade selling Dunkin Donuts coffee and donuts, as well as hot sandwich sales prepared on site. Her advantage over that, she said, is Melrose Café being the first official breakfast stop for people exiting Goshen toward the city.
“I love looking out at all that traffic going back and forth and thinking, ‘These people need good breakfast from us,’” she said. “I think we can do really well.”
Since Fults said the menu will be a lot like Meridian’s, check out a recent copy here. With a fully professional kitchen, she said she’d like to add burgers and other cooked-protein dishes in the future.
Opening for dinner, she said, is a definite long-term goal, as is adding adult beverages.
“I want to see how breakfast and lunch work first before we try dinner,” she said. She allowed that finding experienced employees is challenging in Louisville, and possibly more so in Goshen, a sixth-class city with some 5,000 residences. “We’ve really got to get a good staff in place to start off right.”
Melrose Café will utilize a hybrid service model blending fast-casual service during the week, with full service only for brunch on weekends. A lounge area near the restaurant’s front will be set aside for coffee drinkers seeking to linger for a spell.
“I really want to help people get in and out quicker during the week, and then slow the pace a little on weekends,” Fults said. Watching ample traffic pass by in both directions, she added, “Look at that! That gets me excited about our chances. I think they’ll want to come here.”