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VOL. 117 | NO. 169 | Monday, September 22, 2003

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Aristis to Fill Former Melting Pot Space

Local owners add new flavor to Downtown dining scene


The Daily News

Commercial space at 126-128 Monroe Ave. previously home to a short-lived Downtown location of The Melting Pot fondue restaurant soon will house another restaurant with a unique menu.

Aristis, a locally owned venture featuring South America/Caribbean cuisine is getting set to open in the space next month.

With the intent of bringing a new twist to Downtowns growing dining scene, the restaurants four owners will open the eatery around the second weekend in October, said Ashley McKellar, who owns Aristis with her fiance, Robert Carnoske, friend Brad Marcinkiewicc and father Mike McKellar.

Its something Memphis doesnt have, at least in Downtown, McKellar said. Robert has always wanted to own a restaurant, and were at the age we need to try for it.

Native connection. Ashley McKellar, Carnoske and Marcinkiewicc met while attending Christian Brothers University in the late 90s. Each worked in the restaurant industry, but it was Carnoskes vision that got Aristis going.

The idea came from his parents, who owned a similar restaurant in Tulsa, Okla. His mother is from Columbia, and her cooking inspired many of the restaurants recipes.

My mom came here and she missed the food, so she made it all the time, Carnoske said. People in the South have biscuits and gravy as staples. I grew up with jerk chicken and crepes. Those are my kind of staples.

Carnoske believes the authenticity of the restaurants food will set Aristis apart.

Chilis serves Tex-Mex that is good, but something like El Porton is probably a little better because its more authentic, he said. I think were a little more authentic.

Downtown potential. McKellar is excited about the potential of a Downtown location. The prospect of attracting a strong business lunch crowd drew them to the property, located next door to McEwens on Monroe.

Ive always liked the idea of Downtown and Midtown, McKellar said. With all the things going on in Downtown, it just seems like the right time. I dont want to say Downtown has more life than Midtown, but for what were wanting to do, it fits in with Downtown.

Total usable area in the space, which includes a downstairs banquet area and first-floor dining room and bar area, is about 3,000 square feet.

The restaurant will open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. Friday and 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. Saturday. A specific weekend closing time has yet to be determined, but the owners hope to build a late-night bar clientele, McKellar said.

If we could get a bar crowd together, we would stay open later, but well just see, she said.

The restaurants setup is conducive to a bar atmosphere, as the bar is separated from the dining area in a side room. One unique aspect of the bar menu is its variety, McKellar said.

You can still get a bourbon and water or gin and tonic, but were going to try to include some South American wines, and Roberts got some drinks in mind, McKellar said.

Including the bar area, the restaurant will seat around 107. It will employ about 25.

Redecorating. Although The Melting Pots presence meant the space already was configured for a restaurant, the Aristis owners still had to do some renovating. Since July, theyve worked to convert The Melting Pots design, which was focused on private booth seating. McKellar wanted to eliminate the booths, and all have been replaced with wooden tables and chairs.

It was almost cave-like when you walked in there, she said. The feel wasnt what we wanted.

Its not as claustrophobic as it was. We opened it up and repainted the whole thing.

Shes excited about the interior now, which features exposed brick walls and faux finishes accompanied by wrought ironwork.

Carnoske, who, along with Marcinkiewicc, will serve as a chef in the new restaurant, said the colors add to the restaurants flavor.

We tried to go for South American colors, nice reds and yellows, he said. The old meets new with fixtures. A lot of (the interior design) will have a South American feel.


PROPERTY SALES 91 293 13,051
MORTGAGES 58 168 8,171
BUILDING PERMITS 99 744 30,678
BANKRUPTCIES 34 156 6,220