A Cajun-born chef is bringing new flavors and a new name to a Fan restaurant.
Executive chef Simon Smith has revamped the former home of Mediterranean Bistro and last week reopened the restaurant as Luckie’s Bar & Grill. The dog-themed grill has a bulldog mascot, which Smith said represents the restaurant’s resilience.
“He’s a strong-looking bulldog, but he’s got three legs and one eye,” Smith said. “It’s kind of symbolic in the fact you can knock him down but he’ll just keep trucking.”
Mediterranean Bistro opened last winter at 2301 W. Main St. The restaurant’s partners have changed, but Smith said Debbie Friedhoff, part of the original ownership group, remains. Smith began working with Mediterranean Bistro almost two months ago, he said, after a stint at Popkin Tavern.
An Oxford, Miss., native, Smith started in the restaurant business a dishwasher and worked his way into jobs as a cook and bartender. In Mississippi, he worked under John Currence, who was named the top Southern chef by the James Beard Foundation in 2009 and competed on “Top Chef Masters.”
Since taking over the kitchen at Mediterranean Bistro, Smith has redone the menu and redecorated the interior. The restaurant operated as Mediterranean Bistro until last week, when it closed for about five days before reopening under the Luckie’s name.
The new menu features mostly American cuisine. Smith’s favorite is a burger stuffed with blue cheese and bacon. In keeping with the canine theme, Luckie’s also has a Dog House Burger (beef with onion rings, barbecue sauce and cheddar). So far, Smith said, reception has been positive.
“Obviously, it’s going to take a little bit of time for it to catch on,” he said. “As long as we keep making people happy, they’ll keep coming around.”
Smith said he enjoys the challenge of working with restaurants to rebrand and improve them – he said Popkin made a “180-degree turnaround” under his guidance. But Smith hopes to open his own restaurant in the future, however, and to challenge Currence, his former boss.
“As far as my hometown is concerned, he kind of runs that place,” Smith said. “What I’m trying to do is flex my muscles and make my name in this town, and then head back there and take over.”