Little Girl, Big Restaurant

Lexington, KY – All restaurateurs make mistakes. What separates the really good ones from their competitors is that they learn from them, adapt and apply that new knowledge in future endeavors.

When Bobby Murray and wife, Jennifer, opened up Josie’s Grab and Go in the old Trumps location in Chevy Chase, he had – on paper – a nice idea for a foodservice concept. However, he underestimated the competitive impact of Fresh Market in Lansdowne, and perhaps more importantly, the adverse impact of the poor economy on that type of concept. Last year, it became apparent they were not going to make it, and the concept closed. However,

Murray still loved the location,

availability of parking and the overall area, so he took his lessons learned and went back to the drawing board.

Out of the Josie’s learning experience, he developed a new concept and I think has tapped into just what the surrounding neighborhood needed. The new Josie’s is what I would term a “neighborhood cafÈ” that has all the elements necessary for a favorite, convivial gathering spot for breakfast and lunch with broad age, cultural and societal appeal. Teaming with managing partners Shawn and Ashley Hanna, Murray got it right on a lot of dimensions.

When you walk into this restaurant, the layout, seating and dÈcor really works for the concept and the customers. There is a large horseshoe-shaped counter for single diners or more. Additionally, the horseshoe shape makes it easy to see and talk to anyone else at the counter. The friendly feeling is only enhanced by a great staff that makes everyone feel at home.

Other seating includes nice booths, tables and chairs, and two very large tables for big groups. Widescreen TVs provide entertainment, and the dÈcor imparts a fresh and comfortable ambiance.

Boasting the “best breakfast in Chevy Chase,” that part of the menu is available during all operating hours and has something for everyone. There are omelets (including a veggie version), hearty breakfast plates, two types of eggs Benedict, pancakes, waffles and classics such as quiche of the day and sausage gravy and biscuits. There is a “healthier side” section to their menu as well, with organic granola, egg white omelets and a selection for low-carb lovers. The lineup of side dishes includes Shawn’s cheesy grits casserole, traditional sides and fruit cut fresh on the premises every day.

The lunch menu has a diverse array of 14 different sandwiches and burgers, including traditional favorites like the classic club along with more personalized offerings such as Shawn’s spicy burger and

Mamoo’s chicken salad. Fans of the grouper fingers at Merrick Inn will find that standby on this menu, too, along with a quesadilla of the day. There are six salad offerings, including a baby spinach salad, southwest chicken Caesar salad and an Asian chicken salad. Additionally, there are soup options in a cup or bowl, served with French bread.

Josie’s (named after Bobby and Jennifer’s 5-year-old daughter) is currently operating under winter hours of

8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. In mid-April, they plan to switch to a summer hours schedule of 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays. To-go orders are available by calling (859) 523-8328.

I predict success for this new business venture, and it offers a great example of a couple of different business realities. The first one was how lessons from one venture that didn’t work out can be applied toward a new venture that will be successful. The other is how valuable restaurateur talent is to a community.

The Murray family has been involved with Merrick Inn for almost 40 years, including Bobby and Jennifer;
Bobby’s mother, Libby; and his late father, Bob Murray. Bobby Murray is a hands-on owner/operator who knows every aspect of the business, whether it be selecting dÈcor for Josie’s or personally pressure-washing the patio at Merrick Inn in anticipation of Keeneland and the 2010 “patio season.” That experience honed with Merrick Inn was parlayed into the acquisition of the Homestead Restaurant on Harrodsburg Road, which they converted to Murray’s Restaurant, which arguably has the best patio dining scene in Lexington. While Bobby Murray briefly tried to sell Murray’s, he has since taken it off the market and is looking forward to this year with all three of the Murray family concepts.

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