When Terri Wilhelm Detenber died suddenly last January from a hemorrhagic stroke at 52, she left behind both a blessing and a curse for her daughter Brittany — running the successful Belknap neighborhood bar known as the Dundee Tavern.
Brittany Metten was a familiar face at Dundee, working as a server and bar manager since the age of 20. She didn’t mind picking up a few shifts on the weekends and some nights after her daytime job ended. She actually grew up with many of the bar’s regulars since her parents opened it in 1998, when she was in the eighth grade.
Now, 16 years later, she’s decided to sell the business her mother ran with the help of best friend Sandy Holloway since Detenber took it over full time in 2006. It wasn’t an easy decision for Metten, now 30, but it’s one she knows her mom would approve of.
Metten says her mom often considered selling Dundee if the right buyers came along, and Metten would joke with her that one day she’d buy the bar herself. “She would shoot me this stern look and say, ‘Oh no you’re not! I would never let you do that!’” Metten recalls. “I think it’s easier for me to (sell Dundee) knowing it was something Mom was considering anyway. I think she’s definitely smiling down knowing it’s gonna go to people who have a passion for it.”
Those people are Susan Conway and Chris Ross, friends and former coworkers at the Bristol Bar & Grille. Ross was a catering chef, and Conway was the catering director and worked for the Louisville restaurant institution for more than 25 years.
Conway says she’s been looking for a change for some time now, and this opportunity seemed perfect. She lives in the Highlands and has been a fan of Dundee for years. Ross knew Metten from when she worked at Creation Gardens and has kept in touch over the years. When Metten indicated she’d be willing to sell the tavern to someone who would honor its legacy, Ross and Conway decided it was their time to make the leap as business owners.
“We want to keep it the same kind of place. We aren’t going to change the inside,” Conway says. “We are changing the menu, focusing on more quality food. It’s bar food now, and ours will be similar, but just good bar food. They pull a lot of stuff out of the box at the moment, and Chris is not going to do that.”
The only other major change other than the menu is the name. It’ll now get a fancy new logo and be called The Dundee Gastropub.
The first question Metten gets asked when customers find out about the sale: Are they going to keep the Dundee Dip? Regulars will be happy to know the best-selling, one-of-a-kind appetizer is staying put.
“They are definitely keeping the dip, and I will pass that recipe onto them for the customers only,” Metten says. “I knew it would kill people to not be able to get their Dundee Dip.”
“The Dundee Dip is staying!” Conway emphasizes. “The Dundee Dip, the wings and the blackened chicken pasta are definitely staying. There’ll be hamburgers still — just better hamburgers. The rest of it will be just Chris’ flair on local stuff — he’s got a pimento cheese melt, quesadillas, sliders, some hearty, entrée salads — but the new menu will also cover pretty much what they have now.”
Conway is looking forward to jumping in and making improvements, like adding more local beers to the 20 taps. She also says they will add a catering business to the plan and intend on keeping any front-of-the-house staff who opt to stay.
As for Metten, she’s not sure what direction she’ll go in but is looking forward to having her weekend nights back to spend with her husband and friends. Another goal will be getting her younger brother Alex through college without accruing debt. He’s currently a sophomore at U of L.
“It was the right time, right place,” Metten says. “I was in a good situation, because I didn’t have to sell. The restaurant was doing wonderful and I could have continued to plug away for the next five years, but I just felt like I was going to miss a good part of my life with my husband. We want to start a family. At least I got to be picky and found the right people.”
Metten intends to help Conway and Ross through the transition and says what she’ll probably miss the most will be the interaction with customers and the weird chaos that exists in the restaurant business.
“I think it’ll really hit me that first day when there’s a game on. I guarantee I’ll start dreaming about the staffing and worrying if we have enough food and beer ordered,” she laughs. “I swear restaurant people are crazy for being able to do it. It’s a crazy job.”
The last day for the current Dundee Tavern is Sunday, Nov. 23. It’ll then close for four days and re-open as The Dundee Gastropub on Friday, Nov. 28.