Owners of Lillie Pearl are turning former Fatty Smokes spot into a steakhouse

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Kim Love-Lindsey and Mike Lindsey are launching a new steakhouse. (BizSense File)

Lindsey Food Group is back.

The fast-growing group of local restaurants has another outpost in the works, it’s the sixth since it was founded in fall 2020 by Mike Lindsey and Kim Love-Lindsey.

Their latest effort is a takeover of Fatty Smokes’ former home at 326 E. Broad St. downtown, where they plan to open ML Steak Modern Chophouse.

Their rental of the space is a homecoming for the married couple and business partners, as before starting their own group, they helped open Fatty Smokes in 2019 while working for EAT Restaurant Partners.

“It’s kinda near and dear to me,” Lindsey said. “We’re just excited to be back in space.”

As the name suggests, ML Steak will be a steakhouse, but it “won’t be traditional or stuffy or have the white tablecloth,” as Lindsey put it.

He said they plan to turn on the meat smoker that has remained in the space since Fatty Smokes closed in 2020 and use it to smoke all kinds of cuts of meat, including prime rib, wagyu breast, duck breast and short ribs, while also offering steakhouse staples like tenderloins and bone-in rib eye steaks.

“We’re going to make this a fun spin on a steakhouse,” Lindsey said. “It’s a place to have fun, kind of have that adult, sexy vibe, but still be a place to have a great night out or if a bunch of business people want to hit the town.”

It will also be open for lunch, offering more affordable fare like burgers, Lindsey said.

The goal is to open ML Steak in September. The initials in the restaurant’s name are a tribute to Lindsey’s mother, Mildred Lindsey.

Fatty Smokes has been doomed since the height of the pandemic. It is next to the Greater Richmond Convention Center. (Michael Schwartz photo)

The Lindseys are leasing the space and were represented by Nathan Hughes of Sperity Real Estate Ventures, Veronica Wiles and Betsy Borders Mangum in the deal. The owner, The Monument Cos., was represented by Leo Chappell of Legend Property Group.

The new steakhouse is another example of the group’s talent for finding turnkey situations, picking up in a space where others have left off.

Much like taking over from Fatty Smokes, the Lindseys also made deals for Pasture’s former space on East Grace, where they opened Lillie Pearl; B. Good’s former home in Short Pump, where they opened Buttermilk and Honey; and the former Wildcraft Focaccia Co. in Manchester, where they are preparing to open Jubilee next month. They also bought Pop’s Market from its founders last summer.

Their only presence in new build is at Hatch Local, the recently opened food hall in Manchester’s The Current.

Lindsey said their strategy of targeting turnkey spaces allowed them to avoid taking on big loans and going into debt, and therefore grew faster.

“I tell you man, our success goes into these situations. Usually it’s on someone else’s back that he loses it. We’re still empathetic to that, but we’re still grateful to have the opportunity to step into a space that allows us to continue to grow debt-free,” Lindsey said.

“It feels good because then we can really take care of the people who work for us because we’re not digging a hole to fight each time. We are able to pay people well and treat them well. We can do it without the stress of debt.

They have also developed a reputation. When spaces become available, Lindsey said he believes they are at the forefront of anyone’s mind tasked with finding a new tenant.

“A lot of second-gen spaces come to us like this because people are like, ‘Oh, that’s what Kim and Mike are doing, let’s make sure we reach out to them,'” he said. “So we are affected quite early in the process.”

This approach also allowed them to come up with restaurant ideas more quickly. Lindsey said that instead of developing a list of food concepts and going out and finding spaces for them, he works backwards based on real estate.

“Most spaces determine what the concept will be. I never come in with a concept. The space kind of speaks to what you do,” he said. “Me and Kim are usually able to come up with these ideas and make them work. Timing is important. People are starting to know that we’re making decisions pretty quickly.

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