The Derby Cafe Express is slated to open in January 2019. | Courtesy of Kentucky Derby Museum

The Derby Café will close on Friday, Sept. 28, as the Kentucky Derby Museum retools its dining concept.

The Kentucky Derby Museum, located next to Churchill Downs, announced in a news release Thursday that the existing dining space will become Derby Cafe Express, a grab-and-go breakfast and lunch spot in January 2019.

The museum also has contracted the Texas-based culinary and hospitality services company The RK Group to run the cafe and be the museum’s exclusive caterer for the more than 250 events held at the museum each year. The RK Group’s catering arm, Rosemary’s Catering, has a five-year contract through 2023 with the Kentucky Derby Museum, according to the release.

Derby Cafe Express’s menu will include hot breakfast sandwiches, parfaits, breakfast pastries, deli sandwiches, paninis, soups, salads, cheese trays and snack packs, among other items. The RK Group will locally source ingredients for the cafe, the release states.

The new 1,560-square-foot dining room will seat up to 70 people, and despite the change in concept, the cafe will remain on the Urban Bourbon Trail by serving more than 50 varieties of bourbon at its full bar.

Its hours of operation will be 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

The cafe will offer grab-and-go breakfast and lunch items, including hot breakfast sandwiches, salads and snack packs. | Courtesy of Kentucky Derby Museum

“It is an especially exciting time to be partnering with the Kentucky Derby Museum because the facility will be expanding significantly this year, which will provide additional opportunities for this great venue to host a spectrum of large events,” Neil Fuselier, senior vice president at The RK Group, said in the release. “We feel privileged by the opportunity to serve the Kentucky Derby Museum and its guests throughout the years ahead and contribute to the celebration of the rich tradition, history, hospitality and pride of the world-renowned event that is the Kentucky Derby.”

The cafe changes are part of the museum’s $6.5 million expansion, which is expected to wrap up by Oct. 31, with the exception of the cafe.

The expansion includes adding a third floor for administrative offices, a large conference room and storage areas; building a new stable for its thoroughbred and miniature horse, as well as seating for educational programs; creating a new covered venue for special events; and relocating the Finish Line pole. The project scope will renovate 5,000 square feet of existing space and add 11,000 square feet to the back of the museum.

More than 230,000 visitors walked through the doors of the Kentucky Derby Museum last year.

Caitlin Bowling
Louisville native Caitlin Bowling has covered the local restaurant and retail scene since 2014. After graduating from the Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, Caitlin got her start at a newspaper in the mountains of North Carolina where she won multiple state awards for her reporting. Since returning to Louisville, she’s written for Business First and Insider Louisville, winning awards for health and business reporting and becoming a go-to source for business news. In addition to restaurants and retail business, Caitlin covers real estate, economic development and tourism. Email Caitlin at [email protected]