MERIDEN — Foodies with a craving for cheesesteaks will soonhave a new option in Krave Cheesesteaks, a Philly-style cheesesteak restaurant slated to open by September on Broad Street.
Though owner Michael “Mike” Reed's background is in information technology, his passion for food comes across as he talks about this vision for the restaurant.
“The meat is the biggest thing,” Reed said. “We won’t have any of that frozen stuff. We’ll have fresh certified Angus Beef, ribeye, etc. cut in house and go right on the grills.”
Krave will not only be offering Philly cheesesteak, but also chicken and shrimp cheesesteak, loaded cheese fries with items like steak and shrimp on top, hot honey salmon salad, and Krave Wings.
“There is going to be a special chicken wing flavor. It will be a double-fried wing with an Asian fusion sauce,” Reed said. “We’re trying to bring different things to the area and you have to do that now, because everybody has things like wings and pizza. So I hope that this takes off.”
Once people on Facebook caught wind that a restaurant offering cheesesteaks was coming to town, the universal response was ooh, yummy, delicious and can’t wait. But the responses weren’t short of skepticism as well, with some hoping it’s going to be better than a local sandwich shop that frequently messes up their sandwiches, and others asking if it’s going to be better than other restaurants in the state or even the cheesesteaks they make at home.
Reed shared that his family travels to the Delaware/Philadelphia area a lot for football and always stops at different cheesesteak places on their way back.
“I was like, ‘Wow. If we had something like this in Connecticut, better yet in Meriden, it would do really well,” Reed said. “We don’t have a ton of great food options in Meriden and although this is going to be considered fast food, it’s going to be quality food.”Doing what he loves
Though Reed works in IT, he always had a passion for cooking.
“I’m a self-taught cook,” he said. “I cook at home and all my family and friends really enjoy it.”
In 2019 and 2020, he started throwing the idea of opening the restaurant around with his wife, Alisa, who thought it was a great idea. So he hosted a few events at his home and invited people over, and cooked cheesesteaks for them to see what they thought.
“They were all like, ‘When are you opening?’” Reed said. “So then I was like, ‘We can really make some money off of this and add some jobs for people here as well.’”
He plans to have two or three cooks with restaurant experience.
“We’re always looking for other people as well that will make great additions to the team,” Reed said. “The most important thing is having reliable people. It will fail if it doesn’t.”Seeking a spot
Reed spent about two years trying to find the right location.
“It’s super expensive to start fresh when all the equipment is not in there,” Reed said. “So I wanted to find a place that at least had a hood and good traffic.”
He looked at a ton of different locations.
“I wanted to open on the west side and found a location but the traffic wasn't that great,” he said. “But I was eyeballing this place for over a year. There was supposed to be another gentleman coming in here, but he got sick, unfortunately. Then I saw the sign up there ‘now leasing’ and started the hunt to find the owner’s contact.”
Reed signed the lease at 122 Broad St. for Aug. 1 and immediately got started on renovations.
“This space is a perfect size. I didn't want a huge sit-in spot, but more of a grab-and-go type of establishment,” he said. “But we are going to add a couple high tables.”
His wife helped with the interior design.
“We travel a lot, especially to Miami, and we were like, ‘Oh, let’s bring a Miami/LA vibe with the shrubbery and neon sign,’” Reed said. “Everyone needs a good selfie wall, right?”
They also added a custom-built counter, made some improvements to the floor, ripped the existing wall, and added a fresh coat of paint.
“We will be hanging a TV up behind the counter with a digital display of the menu and getting new equipment,” Reed said.Opening soon
Reed shared that they are hoping to open by the end of this month or early September.
“Things have been going pretty well,” he said. “I’ve been going through the city. They have a bunch of grants for new business with a good amount of money. So I’m hoping that all the equipment will be bought by the city and save me a few dollars.”
Krave will be a Meriden Big Program recipient.
“I was involved with the Meriden Raiders for a long time coaching and I knew some of the board members and they said, ‘Hey there is a grant out there that could help.’ So I called City Hall and asked if there were any grants for new businesses and they said ‘yes, absolutely,’ sent me a link (for the Meriden Big Program) and I filled it out online,” Reed said.
The Meriden Big (Business Investment and Growth) Program aims to enhance revitalization and restoration of Meriden’s business community, while increasing foot traffic, income balance and opportunity. It is funded by the Meriden City Council of up to $5 million of American Rescue Plan Acts. The program will be managed by the City of Meriden’s Department of Economic and Community Development in coordination with the Meriden Economic Development Corporation and the Midstate Chamber of Commerce.
Meriden’s program consists of grants that would be used to bring vacant commercial spaces into compliance with current building codes and to provide what officials called “vanilla box” improvements, to enable businesses to move into those spaces. For spaces located in the downtown Transit Oriented District, or TOD, the required match from applicants is 25%. For spaces located outside the TOD, the required match is 50%. The maximum dollar amount the city would fund to each potential project for code compliance costs is $300,000 per project.
Reed shared that even though working toward opening has been going well, the journey has been a little stressful overall.
“I’ve noticed that I get a little overwhelmed sometimes but I’ll shake it off,” he said. “I take a step back, reevaluate and keep going. At night sometimes, you overthink it, like I don’t know if I should do it, but we’ve come too far now to turn back. I have to do it.”
Reed was born and raised in Meriden. He graduated from Platt High School where he played high school football and would later coach for a year. He graduated from Gateway Community College and Post University with degrees in computer science and computer information systems. He loves football, to travel, and is heavy into helping the youth.
“I want to eventually give out yearly scholarships, offer specials during the week, including customers giving a portion of their purchase to the Meriden Raiders, and sponsor a team,” he said. “So please come down and support and get ready for some good cheesesteaks and more quality food for the residents of Meriden.”
The plan is to have Krave Cheesesteaks open Tuesday-Sunday from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. and closed on Mondays
They can be found on Facebook and Instagram @KraveCheesesteaks