|The Green Derby on March 5. FTM file.|
by Robin Gee
It was a sad day for local diners when Newport’s Green Derby closed suddenly in 2018. The restaurant had been serving its fabled hot brown sandwich and other popular fare for 70 years in its location at 846 York Street near the corner of Nineth Street.
This week, the owners of The Purple Poulet announced they will move their operation from Dayton, Kentucky, to the newly-renovated building that housed the Green Derby for all those years. If all goes well, they hope to be in the building sometime in July.
Remodeling work has started inside the main part of the building and the back of the building, that was an addition is right now in the process of being torn off.
Rick and Roxanne Zumwalde opened their restaurant in 2016, and since then, they have built reputation for serving some of the best fried chicken and Southern bistro fare in the region.
In fact, The Purple Poulet, which serves Kentucky-tinged Charleston and New Orleans style dishes, as well as an extensive bourbon list, has become so popular, locals say it’s always a good idea to book a reservation even for mid-week.
Rick Zumwalde serves as executive chef of the restaurant. When he opened, he brought along his award-winning fried chicken recipe from the Milan Railroad Inn in Indiana, and a strong reputation within the regional culinary scene. Before the Inn, he’d already built served as a chef at the Cincinnati Club, the Banker’s Club and several other eateries across the region.
The Green Derby building offers the Zumwaldes more space and room to grow. The original building is two-floors, each with about 1,300 square feet. A single-story addition had been added to the building, but the developers are replacing it with a 1,400-square-foot addition with space for a kitchen as well as a patio bar.
In fact, Zumwalde said, while the main dining room on the first floor is about the same size as what they have now, the second floor offers four private dining rooms to accommodate larger groups or more diners, doubling their capacity. Add to that, the outdoor seating being added will triple the restaurant’s capacity when the weather is good.
The developers wanted to preserve history
The Green Derby had a long history in Newport, and the locals have a particular fondness for the building. The building, erected in 1876, was initially home to a grocery store, then a butcher shop and later a pool hall prior to 1947 when it became a restaurant. The eatery was a popular spot throughout the heyday of Newport’s more “colorful” years.
Brothers Dean and Shane Gosney, whose engineering firm Halpe was nearby on West Nineth Street, decided to purchase the building last year in an effort to save it. In a recent interview in the Cincinnati Enquirer, Dean Gosney said he and his brother were not restauranteurs but they hated to see the historic building torn down.
The brothers purchased the building for $185,000, and have been busy with the renovations. Among the renovations has been the removal of a 1950s facade to reveal the original brick. Work on the building is expected to be done this summer with the hope The Purple Poulet can move in July.
Zumwalde said he is excited for the move but wanted to assure those who have come to love the Purple Poulet in its current location, will be pleased that the menu will stay the same and so will the intimacy and neighborhood friendliness.
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