Darnell Ferguson didn’t really want to keep moving SuperChefs, the pop-up breakfast concept he launched with longtime friend Ryan Bryson. But the businesses that played host to the mini-restaurant kept either losing their leases or going out of business.
SuperChefs jumped from mornings at Chicago Gyros on lower Brownsboro to a Clucker’s restaurant in Cardinal Towne, to Seafood Connection in St. Matthews to Ruby Slipper on Wallace Avenue. And so, Ferguson and Bryson decided to find a location all their own.
When SuperChefs officially opens at 106 Fairfax Ave. in St. Matthews on July 9, people who loved the breakfast- and lunch-focused concept will get a bit of a surprise: The new version is super, indeed, with a superhero-themed dinner menu, a bar, superhero décor and much more. An invitation-only soft opening is set for the weekend of June 27 and 28. (SuperChefs’ hours starting July 9 will be Sunday-Thursday, 7 a.m.-9 p.m., and Friday-Saturday, 7 a.m.-10 p.m.)
SuperChefs will take the theme all the way with what Ferguson called a “Super Wall” bearing a giant superhero collage that will greet diners when they enter, various collages and prints on the walls, and even a giant mural of a superhero Last Supper for good measure. The finishing touch will be a picture of a mint copy of Action Comics No. 1 (the first appearance of Superman) that sold last year for a record $3.2 million.
Interestingly, SuperChefs was something the owners wanted to do while they established an oatmeal company called Brain Foods, but that was a long process and, well, Ferguson needed a job.
“It grew really fast,” Ferguson told Insider. “This was supposed to be something we could do and then stop and go do our oatmeal. We said, ‘This may be where we’re supposed to be.’”
The new location is right across Shelbyville Road from Trinity High School. And the storefront, as Ferguson put it, “looks like it should be a Subway.” But the space is relatively sprawling at roughly 4,500 square feet and will feature dining space to comfortably seat 126, with a main dining room, a bar that seats about 15, a private dining room and a special glass-encased SuperChefs room that will be home to reservation-only fine dining meals designed by the chefs based on the customers’ specific tastes.
Meanwhile, the menu is a unique and nearly superhuman entity in itself. It is designed like a comic book from the dramatic beginning (breakfast) to the breathless end (desserts), with plenty of Batman-inspired “Pow!” and “Zap!” graphics along the way. The cover features an eye-popping cartoon image of the Superman-esque SuperChefs menu.
The dinner menu takes it all a step further, offering two sides from which each diner can choose based on their preferences, taste buds and sense of adventure. The “Civilian” menu offers items like the Clark Kent, which is fish and mashed potato chips on one side, while the companion Superman dinner is “the ultimate veggie pot pie.” Feeling Bruce Banner? It’s filet mignon, potatoes and veggies. But if you’re feeling more like the Incredible Hulk, well, you’ll get meatloaf cupcakes with mashed potato icing and candied bacon sprinkles.
Superdillas named for superheroes are still on the lunch menu, ranging from Spider-Man (pulled pork, carmelized onions, smoked gouda and mango barbecue sauce) to Aquaman (smoked salmon, hot crab spread, mozzarella cheese, spinach and shrimp with mango chutney).
There are pancakes known as Super Cakes and Super Duper Cakes, some of which are labeled with Mortal Kombat characters, plus a variety of sandwiches and specialties for breakfast. There are signature french toast dishes (Ferguson highly recommends the banana pudding granola-encrusted style), plus waffles, omelets and even beignets. Some of the breakfast items will be available all day, including the waffles and Super Cakes.
And if you’re looking for the signature Waffle Donut, it’s here for just $1.50 (or $1 for “donut style”). And with a full bar that also will feature craft beer, diners can even get specially designed “breakfast shots” to go with their mimosas and bloody marys.
Actually, there already are two SuperChefs stores operating in the Columbus, Ohio, area, from which Ferguson and Bryson hail, and they are doing well while offering just the breakfast and lunch menus. Bryson moved back to Columbus to run those, while Ferguson, who attended Sullivan University for culinary school and loves Louisville, stayed here.
“Our thought was that we would eventually open our own separate restaurants,” Ferguson said. “But SuperChefs is so popular.”
Incidentally, the name is also Ferguson’s nickname, in part because he is a huge fan of superheroes, particularly from the Marvel universe, and is an avid comic book reader. The name started to take hold when he was doing online cooking lessons under the name, and really hit home while still a student at Sullivan, when he was working with the U.S. Olympics teams in 2008.
“That’s where the name stuck,” he said. “I like to work fast and I like to have fun when I’m working.”
Just to make sure, he has SuperChef tattooed on both arms. The guy probably has a cape and blue tights in the trunk of his car. And don’t think he and Bryson are finished — the Louisville location will be the third, but a fourth is already in the works. Up, up and away.