After 28 years in restaurants, Clay Wallace is headed for a new career. The owner of Café Lou Lou has sold the Cajun-Italian-Mediterranean eatery in St. Matthews to Jared Matthews, operating partner at Diamonds Pub & Billiards. Wallace, who earned a realtor’s license in 2016, is starting a new career buying, flipping and selling homes for Keller Williams.
“I’m sad, yet relieved about the whole thing,” said Wallace, who began his restaurant career at Café Metro, a longtime Highlands standard that closed a few years ago. He opened his first Café Lou Lou 13 years ago in Clifton at the Hilltop Tavern site. He added a second location in the Loop on Dundee Way, but closed it last year. “I’ve owned my own place a long time, and I’m ready for a change.”
Sale price for the restaurant will remain private, but Wallace said that after working to eliminate some debt tied to the restaurant, “selling it will make me whole, which is great. … That feeling is indescribable.”
A longtime Café Lou Lou regular, Matthews joked regularly with Wallace about wanting to buy the place, but Wallace never took him seriously until he got the urge to leave the business last year.
Wallace said the deal took 10 months to complete, and that the papers were signed March 20.
A Louisiana native, Matthews said Cajun food is in his blood, and that he’s long wanted to run a restaurant. He’ll also get to revive his passion for craft cocktail making, something he’s had to shelve while operating Diamonds.
“I’ve always liked Café Lou Lou, but as the owner, I want to tweak it a little and do things to get more people in there,” said Matthews, who also will continue as operating partner at both Diamonds locations. “Everything will remain the same at both Diamonds. This is just me stretching some to run a restaurant.”
To the menu, Matthews plans to add some Cajun dishes, some lighter food and gluten-free options. Oh, and those craft cocktails … you’ll see those, too.
“Drinks at Diamonds are more about volume, so I used to get into bartender competitions to have some fun,” he said. “But since we opened both (locations), I haven’t been able to do that stuff. I’ll get to do some of that” at Café Lou Lou.