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