BURLINGTON — As a takeout and catering cafe during the day and an upscale restaurant at night, Michelle’s Kitchen & Table is where family values and fine dining collide.
Michelle Morton, owner of Michelle’s, opened the restaurant in 2005. Half of the restaurant stayed true to its previous takeout and catering business complete with a country-chic aesthetic. The ambience on the other side of the room has the warm glow, rich smells and cloth napkins of fine dining.
“We needed to move out of our old location to grow,” Morton said. “The next step would have been serving lunch, but when this building came open, it was fit to serve dinner too, and there was a banquet room as well.”
But these banquet rooms serve as more than just event locations. For Morton, one in particular is a reminder of her childhood home.
Elon University junior Liam Collins, social media manager of Michelle’s, said that Morton modeled one of the private event spaces after her childhood dining room. She named it “Fanie’s Table” after her mother, who recently died.
“She remembers the dining area was always overlooking the kitchen, so that’s why you can see the kitchen from here,” Collins said. “On the logo, if you see the word ‘kitchen’ in script, that’s her mom’s handwriting.”
Just as family is at the center of her business, Morton likes that she and her staff have a strong bond too.
“The staff, we’ve all known each other for a long time. Most of us have worked together for five to 10 years,” Morton said. “We haven’t done it yet this year, but every year, we do a big cookout somewhere with food from here and just hang out. It’s just a way to keep everyone together.”
Morton is also focused on expanding the restaurant’s presence in the Burlington community.
The menu, which changes seasonally and features a variety of farm-to-table dishes, only uses produce from local farms. Michelle’s has appeared at several Burlington fundraising events, including Taste of Alamance, and donates to nearby schools and charities like Little Pink Houses of Hope.
According to Collins, the restaurant’s expanding social media presence has also captured local attention.
“We’re becoming very well known. We had rice crispy bars over in the kitchen, and I posted a picture of it, but we just happened to run out that day ... and I think four or five extra people came in looking specifically for those rice crispy bars. I guess that just speaks to the power of social media: people see it, and then people come in,” Collins said. “Social media is so prevalent nowadays. You need a strong presence to attract even 10 more people a week, but that 10 people makes a big difference.”
Collins claims that Morton is lucky to have such a loyal fanbase but is trying to attract a variety of customers.
“Michelle is trying for casual fine-dining. She wants people to come in for black-tie events, but she also wants people to come in [wearing] shorts and a T-shirt for lunch with their friends,” Collins said.
Morton said that the restaurant has seen some traffic from Elon students, most of whom “come in on Saturday for lunch, really early, in their pajamas.” However, Elon parents and family members have already started booking tables for graduation and other upcoming events.
“All of our regular customers are happy [the restaurant is] here,” Morton said. “They feel like it’s a nice place to go, and it’s warm and inviting.”