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Now Open Downtown: The Vault and Lisa's Lunchbox

We talked to the folks behind two new Downtown spots.

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Say you want to grab a nice meal and glass of wine, and your boyfriend wants to watch the game. Or you're looking for some good music. Or you want to bring the kids along.

Business partners Michael O'Mell, Tyson Bridge, and John Kalb have spent the last four months putting all the right bells in all the right places and all the right whistles in the other right places so that you may do any or all of these things.

The three men purchased the property at 124 GE Patterson, formerly the site of the Double J Smokehouse, back in November and debuted the redesigned spot as The Vault mid-March.

Aaron Winters is now at The Vault.
  • Aaron Winters is now at The Vault.
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"We were looking to do something, and we love the South Main area. You can tell it's growing, and they'll have the new movie theater and hotel coming in," O'Mell says. "This space became available, and it was the right opportunity at the right time."

After acquiring the space, which was originally a bank in the '50s, complete with a still-standing vault, they stripped everything down to its bare bones, even taking out some columns and resupporting the building. They completely redid the kitchen, extended the bar six feet, repainted, and amped up the stage with new lights and new sound.

They installed TVs with their own remotes at every custom-made booth, made available an app to listen to the television on personal devices, installed charging stations along the bar, and offer the only Frost Rail in Memphis — a three-inch trough full of snow-like frost for to keep your beer cold.

And yes, they still have that killer upstairs patio in the back.

But their real secret weapon is the man behind their made-to-order pork rinds, their Cornish Game Hen, their Bacon Wrapped Chicken Roulade, and their Steak and Pommes Frites.

That would be Aaron Winters, of Porcellino's and Miss Cordelia's fame.

"I tried to come up with an eclectic menu with roots in Southern cuisine," Winters, who was classically trained as a butcher in Italy, says.

He brings in produce from Wilson Farms, beef from Claybrook Farms, and catfish from Lakes Catfish.

"We're so close to the farmers market, they'll swing by here when they're done, and I shop off the back of their trucks," Winters says.

In addition to the entrees mentioned above, he offers a flat breads menu, sandwiches, starters including a daily selection of charcuterie, and an oyster menu.

"We're getting in some really good oysters from around the country," Winters says.

Plans include hosting crawfish boils during season and pig roasts in the fall, as well as Memphis' favorite meal — brunch.

"Brunch is forthcoming," O'Mell says. "We want to make sure we do a few things really well, then add more."

Look for the building with a silver vault door on the front.

The Vault, 124 GE Patterson, 591-8000, vaultmemphis.com. Open 11 a.m. daily for lunch; dinner 5 to 10 p.m.; late-night menu 10 p.m. to close.

What's that quote about "The day I got sacked was the best thing that ever happened to me"?

Whatever it is, it rings true for Lisa Clay Getske.

After working for Houston's for 14 years, she went on to manage a chain restaurant that, after two years, ended up letting her go "for a less expensive, younger model."

Clay Getske took it upon herself to leverage her experience and do her own thing.

That thing has grown into the empire that is Lisa's Lunchbox.

And in mid-March, the empire spread to the downtown area into the former Tuscany Italian Eatery at 116 S. Front.

"It's fantastic," she says. "AutoZone is a big customer that's right across the street, and it's been fun being down here during all the festivals."

The move had everything to do with a ServiceMaster devotee, her managing business partner, and a little luck.

"At my original location at the Ridgeway Business Center, ServiceMaster is across the street," Clay Getske says. "My friend works at the ServiceMaster downtown, and he kept saying, 'Hey, there's this spot downtown.'"

That spot was Front Street Deli, which didn't work out for Clay Getske, but thanks to her business partner, Matt Reisinger's, thirst for water, they found the space at 116 S. Front.

"We had the keys to the Front Street Deli, but we hadn't signed the lease," Clay Getske says. "They were feeling a little nostalgic, and didn't want to change the name. When Matt was down there, he went into Tuscany for a bottle of water and got to talking to [owner] Jeremy Martin, and he said, 'Why don't you buy this place?'"

Lisa's Lunchbox specializes in "really good, fresh, real food," such as her Chicken Club Panini, her "massive" BLT "with real bacon, and we're not stingy with it," and her spicy pimento and cheese. She also offers frozen meals to go, which will be included in the new location in May, and breakfast sandwiches and smoothies.

"We go before the beer board this week, and I think that's something I want to offer downtown for the tourists who are walking around and want something to eat and a beer," she says.

She also plans on staying open later eventually.

Lisa's Lunchbox, 116 S. Front, 729-7277, lisaslunchbox.com. Open 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mon.-Fri.

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