New cafe going into Subway spot on Minnesota Avenue


Ed Kemmick/Last Best News

Melody, left, and Tammy Fletcher, with a cardboard Elvis inside their new Minnesota Avenue cafe.

A new restaurant is going into one of the oldest buildings in Billings.

Melody and Tammy Fletcher are planning to open Mel’s Lunch Box, a breakfast-and-lunch cafe, on Wednesday, Feb. 1. The restaurant, in the old L and L Building on the southeast corner of Minnesota Avenue and South 27th Street, will be open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The Fletchers, who are married, also own For the Funk of It, kitty-corner from the L and L Building at 14 S. 27th St. They had originally planned to put a little coffee shop and cafe in the space next to their vintage and repurposed furniture and home furnishings shop, Tammy said, but they knew the space was probably too small for what they wanted to do.

Then, in November, they learned that the Subway restaurant on the ground floor of the L and L Building had shut down. They thought it over for a few days and then approached Russ Plath, who had bought the building just about a year earlier, to talk about opening a cafe there.

Plath, whose law firm occupies all of the second floor, was game, and the Fletchers signed a lease early in January.

Tammy said they worked with the owner of the Subway franchise and are buying almost all the equipment and furniture from the old restaurant, right down to the safe and cameras.

Mel’s Lunch Box—named for Melody, whose family has been involved in bars and restaurants in Billings going back decades—will serve lots of traditional fare, but with organic ingredients and soy-free and gluten-free options.

Tammy said they will also use locally sourced ingredients “as much as we possibly can,” including breads from Grains of Montana and baked goods from Rae Rae’s Bakery, a West End business that also uses organic ingredients, using no wheat, soy or gluten, with dairy- and egg-free options.

The breakfast menu will include bacon and eggs, breakfast burritos, breakfast bowls, biscuits and gravy, avocado toast, oatmeal and fresh fruit. The lunch menu will include soups and salads, pulled pork and grilled cheese sandwiches, hamburgers, hotdogs and Elvis’ favorite, a peanut-butter-and-banana sandwich.

That last item will be in keeping with the diner’s decor, featuring memorabilia from the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. They have also converted a dining room addition in the back of the restaurant into a lounge area, where people can hang out to read or work on their computers.

When the Fletchers moved to Minnesota Avenue to open For the Funk of It two years ago, they started out in the building directly across 27th from the L and L. They moved into the larger space at 14 S. 27th St. a little more than a year ago, and the original storefront was soon occupied by Smiling Dog Records.


Ed Kemmick/Last Best News

Mel’s Lunch Box, complete with a statue of Marilyn Monroe, is at Minnesota Avenue and South 27th Street.

Tammy said she and Melody are pleased to be contributing once more to the redevelopment of Minnesota Avenue.

“I would like to see Minnesota grow,” she said, and “restaurants tend to bring a big variety of people from all over. I don’t think we have to do stuff on the West End.”

Melody will be doing most of the food preparation, along with their first hire, cafe manager Shelly Fisher, who used to manage the Grand Bagel restaurant.

Meanwhile, the 1,000-square-foot space adjoining For the Funk of It is being remodeled into a boutique into which they’ll be inviting other vendors to sell their wares. Behind that, in another 1,000-square-foot space, the Fletchers plan to build a work area for their store.

The L and L building was constructed between 1893 and 1896. Originally owned by O. and C. Krieger of Livingston, it was sold in 1896 to Yee and Sam Lee. They named it the L and L Building and operated a Chinese restaurant on the ground floor, with a boarding house upstairs.

The building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, was long home to the notorious Arcade Bar, until it was converted into offices and commercial space in 2003.

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