Celebrity chef Melba Wilson will bring her fried chicken and catfish to Newark with Melba’s 550, a Southern comfort food restaurant, she announced March 8 after signing a lease with Fidelco Realty Group.
Wilson is the founder of popular Harlem, New York, eatery Melba’s Restaurant, which since opening in 2005 has been frequented by celebrities and in 2020 caught the attention of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
Melba’s 550 will occupy the former First National State Bank space at 550 Broad St., which is owned by Fidelco Realty Group Chairman Marc Berson. Diners will be seated in the original bank vault; the restaurant will also feature a separate coffeeshop with a takeout window on Broad Street.
Details on the restaurant’s menu and design are still evolving, but Melba’s 550 said they hope to have the restaurant open later this year.
“I eat fried chicken; you eat fried chicken and from that, we’ll build a unique experience that brings everyone together – we’re going to combine our minds and change lives,” said Wilson in a statement on the new space. “This is a very exciting moment for us; a Jewish guy from Newark and a Black woman from Harlem are showing that we all have so much in common through our love of food, family and community. The new restaurant will be in Newark, of Newark, and for Newark.”
Fidelco Realty Group is responsible for developing Audible’s Innovation Cathedral, RockPlaza Lofts and other notable Newark commercial and residential projects. The building at 550 Broad St. is undergoing significant renovation, and according to Fidelco is positioned to be a business hub and restaurant destination for the neighborhood.
“The addition of Melba’s to 550 Broad’s roster of tenants speaks volumes about this building’s significance to the Harriet Tubman Square neighborhood,” said Berson in a prepared statement. “From the moment we met Melba, I knew we were going to do something special together. We are gut renovating the lobby of this historic building and constructing a new front entrance from Broad Street that will align with the back of the building to create a public throughfare for the neighborhood”
New York City-based architect David Rockwell of the Rockwell Group will participate in the design of the new restaurant.
“Hospitality is about creating a welcoming space where food can be shared with family and friends,” Rockwell said. “Melba and I have been dear friends for many years. She was an inspiration to me and many others during the pandemic as she advocated for outdoor dining and the central place restaurants have in our neighborhoods. Melba understands the importance of gathering people around a meal and the sense of community that dining out creates. The Newark location of Melba’s Restaurant will be a lively destination in this burgeoning city. I’m also thrilled that with this restaurant, and with Melba and Marc as partners, that I’m working for the first time in this wonderful city.”
Outside of her restaurants, Wilson is the author of cookbook Melba’s American Comfort: 100 Recipes from My Heart to Your Kitchen, which she released in 2016, and is a frequent guest on television shows including Live with Kelly and Ryan, Good Morning America, 60 Minutes, The View, Today and CBS Mornings.