Nearly two years in the making, the owners of the restaurant and malt shop 80/20 @ Kaelin’s are ready to talk about their plans for the Louisville landmark at 1801 Newburg Road.
The property is most well-known as the former Kaelin’s restaurant, whose owners Carl and Margaret Kaelin claimed to have invented the cheeseburger in the 1930s. Going back to the 1920s, the same property housed multiple businesses including a saloon and barber shop, said Chris Fenton, one of 80/20’s co-owners.
Col. Harland Sanders also may have sold his fried chicken at the restaurant.
“Those stories and that history is what really drew us to the building,” said Fenton, who will run the restaurant along with co-owner Bill Dubourg and Matt Staggs.
All three attended St. Xavier High School. Fenton and Staggs were friends in high school, and Dubourg is longtime friends with Staggs’ older brother. Dubourg met Fenton when they both worked at Molly Malone’s Irish Pub.
The Kaelin’s restaurant sign has been newly refurbished and will take the place of the sign for Mulligan’s Pub and Grill, another concept that once occupied the space. The partners decided to play homage to the property’s history in the name and menu as well.
“We didn’t want to lose the history of Kaelin’s,” Dubourg said.
The name 80/20 comes from the ratio of meat and fat in most hamburger recipes, a nod to Kaelin’s most famous menu item, and the menu, which is still in the works, will feature house-ground burgers, fried chicken and other Southern comfort food.
Matt Staggs who will run the kitchen said he wants to wait to set the full menu until he is able to test items in 80/20’s kitchen. Entrees will range from $12 to $25, Staggs said.
80/20’s bar will feature regional breweries, bourbon (obviously) and some classic cocktails. Dubourg said they want to keep it simple.
“For what we are trying to do, people aren’t going to come here for a cocktail that takes 10 minutes to make,” he said.
Jesse Flynn, owner and president of the commercial real estate development company Flynn Group, bought the two-connected buildings, which include the original Kaelin’s building and a house next door, for $657,734 in summer 2016.
The buildings needed a full gutting, including new HVAC, electrical, plumbing and a new floor on the second story of one of the buildings to support the weight of a 70-seat private dining room. More of the original features in the house, including the hardwood flooring, built-ins and a fireplace, were in good condition and able to be saved.
The renovations cost north of $1 million, Flynn told Insider Louisville.
Construction has taken a substantial amount of time and will take at least another six weeks. 80/20 likely won’t open to the public until late March or April. It will employ 40.
“We are not in any rush to open,” Fenton said.
In addition to running a sit-down restaurant with a bar in the original Kaelin’s building, the partners plan to open a house-made ice cream and malt shop in the former house. The malt shop will feature old-fashioned soda jerk station and two chrome and leather booths, and the original hardwood floors will be painted with a black and white pattern. The buildings are connecting by a short flight of stairs.
“What goes good with hamburgers, cheeseburgers and fries but ice cream and milkshakes,” Dubourg said.
The main dining room and bar will open first, followed by the patio and then the malt shop. Between those spaces and the second-floor private dining room, 80/20 will seat about 300.
“You can’t try to oversell yourself in the beginning,” Fenton said, regarding the multistep opening of 80/20.
The biggest surprise for any restaurant in Deer Park or surrounding neighborhoods is that 80/20 will have a decent amount of parking. A lot behind the building will offer about 70 parking spaces.