Well, we tried to get a photograph of the inside, but our host missed the appointment.

A new restaurant called Derby City Roadhouse could open next week in this space formerly home to City Café on the Baxter Avenue side of Mid City mall, technically 1250 Bardstown Road.

Owner-operator Chris Harris, who also owns and runs the Southern Table Bar & Grill in Shelbyville, Ky., originally envisioned a more upscale restaurant in the space, but decided at the last minute to change his concept.

“I was originally going to do a wine bar with things like small plates and flatbreads,” said Harris. “But I decided instead to make it a typical roadhouse with a focus on things like steaks and fried foods, pretty much what you expect.”

Harris said he changed his mind partly because he thought a more middle-market concept would interest a broader range of guests coming to watch movies at Baxter Avenue Theaters, located next to his space.

The restaurant is a 1,600 square-foot space that includes a second-floor balcony overlooking the main dining room. It will feature a full bar and seat 101 guests comfortably, Harris said.

He had originally hoped to open this week, but had issues with delayed deliveries of furniture and a convection oven. He’s also waiting for his liquor license.

Harris is a native Kentuckian who grew up in Pikeville and lived in Louisville as a young adult.

He moved to Miami, Fla., where he practiced law for eight years. He said it didn’t take long too figure out he hated the work, and he began looking for another career.

“I’ve always wanted to be in the restaurant business,” said Harris says, who also co-owned an urgent care center and a day spa in Florida. “Like a lot of people who get into restaurants, I thought it would be kind of cool. But once you actually get into it, you realize that it’s a really hard business.”

Harris said Johnny Lewis will be the chef at Derby City Roadhouse. His cooking creds stem from time at Tavern on the Green in New York City and Harris’s Shelbyville restaurant.

“He is a really good Southern cook,” Harris said. “He makes the best Hot Brown I’ve tasted in Kentucky, so I put that on the Derby City menu.”

Despite only being in the restaurant business since November, Harris has learned some key lessons too few restaurateurs ever master.

“If you don’t pay attention to your numbers, you could lose a lot fast,” Harris said. “I know that my food costs has to be here and my labor cost has to be here. You have to have a lot of procedures in place to catch any problems.”

One twist the Derby City Roadhouse will offer is an extensive wine list chosen by Harris.

“I’m a wine guy, so I really wanted that to be part of the restaurant,” said Harris, who said the Derby City’s by-the-glass selection will be on tap.

“I’ve been working with Republic (a wine and spirits distributor) and we’ve put together a really good list. I hope people like it.”

Steve Coomes
Steve Coomes is a restaurant veteran turned award-winning food, spirits and travel writer. In his 24-year career, he has edited and written for multiple national trade and consumer publications including Nation's Restaurant News and Southern Living. He is a feature writer for Louisville magazine, Edible Louisville & The Bluegrass and Food & Dining Magazine. The author of two books, "Country Ham: A Southern Tradition of Hogs, Salt & Smoke," and the "Home Distiller's Guide to Spirits," he also serves as a ghostwriter for multiple clients.

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