Don Juan’s owner to open Southern-style restaurant, replacing Trolley Stop

Miss+Jacksons+Kitchen+includes+a+lounge+space%2C+which+the+owner+implied+students+could+use+for+studying.+

Photo by Emma Sylvester

Miss Jackson’s Kitchen includes a lounge space, which the owner implied students could use for studying.

On Sept. 12, a new Southern-style restaurant will tentatively be opening in the space once occupied by The Trolley Stop Diner, Lafayette College’s short-lived venture into the public-facing restaurant industry. The new restaurant, called Miss Jackson’s Kitchen, will be operated by Juan Martinez and his wife Melanie, best known as the owners of student favorite Don Juan Mex Grill.

While the space may feel familiar – the furniture, countertops and interior design are carried over from The Trolley Stop – students should not expect the diner fare that characterized the college’s eatery. Nor should students expect to find the Mexican cuisine of Don Juan’s or the Dominican food that Martinez grew up with, save for “cafe con leche” at the full coffee bar. Instead, Miss Jackson’s – named after nobody in particular – will feature a number of dishes evocative of the Deep South, in addition to healthier options such as customizable bowls.

“Think of traditional American favorites like chicken and waffles, pancakes and shrimp and grits,” Martinez said. “Think now about the movement of healthier people. We want to live longer and healthier and we want a restaurant that offers us healthy choices whenever we want to.”

The “whenever” attitude is reflected in how one orders at Miss Jackson’s. While Martinez describes it as a “breakfast and lunch restaurant,” customers will be able to order whatever they want at any time of day, including dinner for breakfast. Much like Don Juan’s, customers can order from screens at the front of the store or with a cashier near the back.

A diverse menu was not a characteristic of Trolley Stop, according to Lafayette President Nicole Hurd, a fact that led in part to its demise this past July.

Miss Jackson’s will not have waitstaff, but Martinez is hoping to hire food runners, baristas, cashiers and hosts and hostesses. Rates start at $13 an hour, not including tips, and Miss Jackson’s is hosting a hiring event on Wednesday, Sept. 7 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

According to a Lafayette Today announcement from June 30, 2022, many of the Trolley Stop’s former staff members will stay with the college and join dining services on campus.

With a new lounge space having been added, Martinez says he wants the restaurant to be whatever the community makes of it.

“There’s no designation. For the purpose of studying or maybe you just want to hang out… whatever you want to do,” Martinez said of the restaurant, adding that it would accommodate student events if possible.

Unlike the Trolley Stop, Miss Jackson’s will not accept meal swipes and it is unclear whether there will be a student discount. However, Pard Dollars will be accepted.

Whether or not there will be student discounts, prices at Miss Jackson’s are relatively affordable. Most menu items range between $10 and $15, not unlike Don Juan’s, though there are several more expensive options that include seafood.

Martinez said that the space at 201 McCartney Street becoming available was “the perfect storm.”

“I learned about an opportunity here. I took advantage of the opportunity,” Martinez said, adding that he had been planning the restaurant for over three years.

In the months prior to taking over the restaurant space, Martinez traveled around the South to gain inspiration for the menu, and it is this Southern “soul” that Martinez hopes to bring to Miss Jackson’s. In the weeks since Martinez began renting the space from the college, he and his team have been testing recipes – and enjoying them too.

“On Friday, I ate the whole batch of grits,” Martinez said.

As for how the grits and other menu items taste, you will have to wait for the full review.