moonflower chef-owner ari jo ellis photo by izaiah johnson

Morning Glory Diner team will open new concept Moonflower on Cherokee Street by summer 2023

The team behind Morning Glory Diner will open their new concept, Moonflower, at 1919 Cherokee St. in Benton Park by summer 2023. The evening service and weekend brunch restaurant marks the next step for owners Ari Jo Ellis and David Stavron, following the closure of Morning Glory at 2609 Cherokee St. in August 2022.  

The new restaurant will mark a shift away from Morning Glory’s breakfast diner concept toward a more dinner-oriented restaurant that serves breakfast on weekends. The new restaurant will be located in a former residential building adjacent to Saturn Lounge, and Moonflower will also offer a menu for customers at Saturn Lounge. Moonflower and Saturn Lounge are both located in properties owned by Glass and Steel LLC, linked to investor John Curtis. 

Moonflower’s dining room will seat about 25 diners, similar in size to Morning Glory. Due to ongoing renovations to convert the building into a restaurant space, Moonflower’s dining room won’t open until later this summer. However, Ellis and Stavron are aiming to have the kitchen ready to begin serving customers by late spring, initially only at the neighboring Saturn Lounge. “The idea is that we open up about the time that patio season is going, and that way we have a bunch of seats with Saturn's patio and indoors, and that'll hopefully balance itself out until we get a dining room,” Ellis said. 

Ellis said she is looking forward to showing customers what she can do with a dinner service and plans to draw on an eclectic set of inspirations. “I have a lot of influences in my career that come from southern United States cooking, Louisiana, all down there, so I'm going to pull from that,” she said. “And then also I just truly enjoy incorporating Asian flavors into that. So I would like to try to do stuff that I'm interested in as a person and chef and then also really stop shying away from the fact that I grew up in a kitchen that cooks Southern food, or worked for several chefs that specialized in Southern food.” Ellis also said that Moonflower will bring back the apple pies that were beloved at Morning Glory, and said they may add beignets to the menu.  

Ellis also said that Moonflower will give her an opportunity to work with a variety of meats and put her experience as a butcher into practice. “I used to put together a pretty good butcher board or charcuterie board at Quincy Street Bistro, so I'd like to get back into that and apply my skills as a butcher,” she said. “And then I'm big on pork, so there'll definitely be pork on the menu. I know some pretty good people who raise chickens. … I'd love to get into breaking down beef again.”

Moonflower will also introduce breakfast service, but unlike at Morning Glory, breakfast will only be available on Saturday and Sunday. “There is a large shift in that we are no longer a diner-breakfast restaurant. We will be a dinner spot that does breakfast on the weekends,” Ellis said. 

Morning Glory fans will be pleased to hear that breakfast at Moonflower will feature items like the Boagie sandwiches, with bacon, sausage, fried chicken and vegetarian options. “We'll carry that over because that’s sort of a signature piece, and then we'll add some some different takes on it,” Ellis said. “Instead of doing a very straightforward Slinger, I'll do something that speaks more to my creative side.” 

The new restaurant will also eventually have a liquor license, and Ellis and Stavron have a good idea of what their customers will be expecting. “We will definitely push the brunch cocktails,” Ellis said. “We found we sold bloody marys and mimosas like no-one's business in the morning.” She added that Moonflower will offer a wine list, citing Union Loafers Café and Bread Bakery as an example of restaurant whose approach to wine she and Stavron admire.

Ellis said kitchen plans have been approved, the hood system has just been installed, and she estimated the kitchen will be completed in about a month. The renovation work will then move on to focus on getting the dining room customer-ready, in addition to expanding the kitchen space. 

A statement from Ellis and Stavron cited several factors prompting Morning Glory’s closure, incuding the “end of their lease on the space, staffing issues and parking considerations. ... David and I were heartbroken that we could not keep Morning Glory open in its current location. We’ve had so many wonderful experiences there with friends and customers,” Ellis said in a statement. “At Moonflower we have more inside seating, a beautiful patio and access to on- and off-street parking, something that was always difficult for us at our last restaurant. We’ve designed the space and the concept to require fewer employees, since this is a challenge for everyone in the service industry,” Ellis stated.

A statement from Saturn Lounge owner Doug Morgan said giving customers the option of ordering dishes from Moonflower’s kitchen will add a new dimension to what his bar has to offer. “By far our No. 1 request is, ‘When will you be serving food?’” Morgan said. “We didn’t want to just do something to do something; the Saturn is a special place and we wanted that to carry over into our food service. With Ari as our chef, we are very confident our customers will be more than pleased and continue to make us a destination for not just drinks but now for food too.” 

Follow Moonflower on Instagram for updates as the restaurant takes shape.