A restaurant that will boast a fine-dining menu is locating in the Old Town neighborhood of north Columbus, with it being launched by a former country club chef and the owner of The Bulloch House in nearby Warm Springs, Ga. It is expected to open in August.
The 2,800-square-foot Morten’s at Old Town Restaurant will be at 3580 Massee Lane in a commercial area inside the mixed-use development off Veterans Parkway, north of Williams Road. That portion of Old Town already has a Clean Eatz eatery, a women’s boutique and hair salon, an optical center and, as of Thursday, will be home to a pediatrician.
(Clean Eatz cafe bringing tasty, healthy food to Columbus)
The people launching the restaurant are Morten Wulff, the former executive chef at the Green Island Country Club in Columbus, and Peter Lampton, owner of The Bulloch House, a popular Southern-style meat and vegetable eatery in Warm Springs. A filing with the Georgia Secretary of State shows that Wulff and Lampert formed a domestic limited liability company under the name of “Morpet at Old Town, LLC” in February of this year.
Wulff, who could not be reached by cellphone Tuesday, left a message early Wednesday morning saying that he is out of the U.S. working to development new dishes for his repetoire. He disputed any notion that he will be serving Southern-style food at the new restaurant.
“I am not going to fry chicken or have meatloaf or anything like that,” Wulff said. “I am out of the country right now. I’m in France actually studying for more finer foods, which I would like to do in a restaurant. It’s going to be a fine-dining restaurant.”
An employee at The Bulloch House on Tuesday said that Wulff is out of the country for a couple of weeks, while Lampert also is away for a few days.
“Their plans just came out of permitting, and there will be construction of about 90 days. We’re saying sometime in August we hope that it will open up for lunch and dinner. So it will be a good complement to Clean Eatz,” said Wendy Elliott, vice president of Woodruff Brokerage Co., which is marketing Old Town.
Elliott said she is impressed with the menu that Wulff has shown the Woodruff Brokerage staffers.
“We recruited him,” she said. “He was looking and the timing happened to work out beautifully, so we’re excited to have him.”
Aside from spending more than a decade at Green Island Country Club, Wulff also was the chef at the Chattahoochee River Club for about 15 years, according to his LinkedIn page. The Denmark native was educated at the Culinary Institute of Copenhagen, the page says.
“I’m probably a mixture of everything,” Wulff told Southern Views magazine in a 2011 interview after being chosen its chef of the month. “I like to pick from the Orient, and Indian cuisine has been a pretty strong interest of mine. I like to take traditional dishes and make them more modern, but at Green Island I don’t really have a trend because I adhere to what members want and put my own touch on it.”
Lampert, whose name is on the alcohol beverage license notice on the front of the coming Morten’s at Old Town building, has owned The Bulloch House since 2011. The original 1893 building burned in 2015, with the restaurant moving to another location in Warm Springs.
The Bulloch House is known for its Southern-style cooking, which includes crispy fried chicken, hamburger steak, chicken and dumplings, fried green tomatoes, creamed potatoes, black-eyed peas, mac and cheese and turnip greens — all served via buffet stations.
Elliott noted that Morten’s at Old Town will be located next to what is known as “Mrs. Vee’s Park,” a knoll overlooking the town square that is in tribute to property owner Calvin Koonce's mother, Virginia.
“The plan is to have outdoor patio seating and dining, and then if you happen to have a child and they want to go upstairs and play at Vee’s Park, then they can run up there while you can sit outside and have a cocktail or enjoy dinner a little later, and not have to get up and go,” she said.
After Morten’s restaurant opens, there will be only one 960-square-foot space left in the Old Town commercial area, said Elliott, who is looking for any kind of retail to fill it. She said a specialty boutique would be a great fit for the development, which is now exploring ideas for building an additional commercial-type structure.
Aside from Clean Eatz, the tenants now at the site include Pure Hair Salon, River Oak Boutique (women’s clothing) and Old Town Optique, an eye-care center operated by Dr. David Rossello. Elliott said pediatrician Dr. Devica Allapan is expected to open her Old Town office Thursday.
Beyond that, the clearing of land is now taking place on a parcel of land fronting the town green and commercial area. Builder Chris Jones of CPJ Custom Homes — who already has constructed Southern Living-style homes in the development — is preparing to construct townhouses on the property.
Though in the discussion and planning stages for a couple of decades, construction on the 300-acre Old Town began in 2013, with a long-term plan of building single-family homes, apartments and retail space around an old-fashioned town square.
The property once was part of an old family farm where Koonce, a Columbus native and Maryland investment firm executive, grew up. He's the son and eldest of three children of the late Burns Koonce, who purchased 149 acres in the area in 1950. Additional land purchases by Calvin Koonce through the years brought the total to about 300 acres.
Long-term elements of Old Town include a large swath of commercial space across from the property and fronting Veterans Parkway. Woodruff Company executives have said the possibilities include a supermarket, restaurants and other small businesses.