The gas station at the corner of Madison and Auburndale was built in the 1920s to service Model T's. Until the late '70s, the Mobil Pegasus stood atop the building directly above the upstairs tire room. When a customer needed a tire, one would be rolled down the narrow stairs into what is now a dining room.
In 1997, Hattley's Garage was remodeled as a restaurant of the same name. More recently, Brad Wilbanks and Sujin Choi had been serving Greek-Korean dishes at Petra (not to be confused with Petra Café out east). Now, the building stands empty.
In late November, Wilbanks and Choi locked the garage doors, papered the windows, and moved Petra down the street to another Midtown staple, Kwik-Chek Deli, the 18-year-old sandwich shop at 2013 Madison, across from the Blue Monkey. On December 1st, the two restaurants combined to serve both menus.
"Most of our customers go to both places. People wondered why they couldn't get sandwiches at Petra. But our locations were too close together. We'd be competing against ourselves. Now they can get the best of both worlds," Wilbanks says.
Because of lowered overhead costs, the couple reduced the prices on many of their most popular items. All of the Kwik-Chek sandwiches, wraps, and sides are still available, along with Petra favorites like the signature dish, Bi Bim Bop.
Choi's mother, 71-year-old Ok Lon Kim, uses her family recipe to make the kimchee, fermented spiced cabbage, from scratch. "We're a family-run business," Wilbanks says.
He and his wife, his nephew, and his sister-in-law tore down the grocery shelves at Kwik-Chek. They cleared out, cleaned up, and filled the space with the tables from Petra. They have plans to construct a back deck for outdoor dining, a new home for the barrel tables that used to sit under the portico of the gas station.
Combining two restaurants into a place with already limited parking posed a problem. Wilbanks and Choi's solution: free delivery. "A majority of our business comes from to-go orders," Wilbanks says. "So we're delivering to all of Midtown and downtown from 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. everyday. Free with a $10 minimum."
Back at Hattley's Garage, a new Americana restaurant called Fuel is scheduled to open in mid-January. Erik Proveaux and Carrie Mitchum, a couple from California, currently operate a mobile catering company, which provides on-site meals for film and television crews.
Fuel will offer a variety of vegetarian items, as well as healthy dishes made with humanely raised animals like free-range chicken and bison. Proveaux says, "Fuel won't be fine dining but a good lunch or dinner spot for people who are tired of eating the same thing all the time." Items on the menu will include a bison burger, mashed potatoes, green beans, homemade soups, and a microbrew root beer float made with all-natural ice cream.
Proveaux and Mitchum plan to brighten the interior with color and bring back the garage feel. As for the pumping station out front, Fuel will provide seating when the weather turns warm. "We liked the location, and we liked Petra's vibe," Proveaux says. "People can walk up, bike in, or drive in and get interesting food at a fair price."