Famed restaurateur Melba Wilson to open Melba’s 550 in Newark

Famed restaurateur Melba Wilson, whose Melba’s Restaurant in Harlem has long been the ultimate location for comfort food and warm surroundings, is coming to Newark.

On Wednesday, Wilson announced she will be creating and opening Melba’s 550 in the iconic 550 Broad St. building owned by Marc Berson, the head of Fidelco Realty Group.

Marc Berson. (File photo)

Details on the restaurant’s menu and design are still evolving, but Wilson said it will be built on the foundation she follows: great food, remarkable service and the trademark warmth.

Wilson said she hopes to have the restaurant open by the end of the year — and is eager to work with Berson to create an establishment that fits the neighborhood.

“I eat fried chicken; you eat fried chicken; and, from that, we’ll build a unique experience that brings everyone together — we’re going to combine our minds and change lives,” she said. “This is a very exciting moment for us; a Jewish guy from Newark and a Black woman from Harlem are showing that we all have so much in common through our love of food, family and community.

“The new restaurant will be in Newark, of Newark and for Newark.”

Occupying the former First National State Bank space, Melba’s 550 will have its own, all-new entrance from Broad Street. The restaurant will offer seating in the original bank vault, providing a unique dining experience.

Melba’s also will feature a separate coffeeshop with a takeout window on Broad Street.

The building, 550 Broad St., is undergoing significant renovation and is positioned to be a business hub and restaurant destination for the neighborhood. Berson said he is thrilled that Wilson will be part of the transformation.

“The addition of Melba’s to 550 Broad’s roster of tenants speaks volumes about this building’s significance to the Harriet Tubman Square neighborhood,” he said. “From the moment we met Melba, I knew we were going to do something special together.

“We are gut-renovating the lobby of this historic building and constructing a new front entrance from Broad Street that will align with the back of the building to create a public throughfare for the neighborhood.”

Architect David Rockwell, founder and head of the award-winning Rockwell Group, will be participating in the design of the new restaurant.

“Hospitality is about creating a welcoming space where food can be shared with family and friends,” he said. “Melba and I have been dear friends for many years. She was an inspiration to me and many others during the pandemic as she advocated for outdoor dining and the central place restaurants have in our neighborhoods.

“Melba understands the importance of gathering people around a meal and the sense of community that dining out creates. The Newark location of Melba’s Restaurant will be a lively destination in this burgeoning city. I’m also thrilled that, with this restaurant, and with Melba and Marc as partners, that I’m working for the first time in this wonderful city.”

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said he’s already looking forward to going there.

“For nearly two decades, people near and far have traveled just to experience Melba’s world-class cuisine and impeccable customer service, and we will now have this opportunity here in Newark,” he said. “As mayor, I am honored and proud to have Melba Wilson bring her exquisite and contemporary style of soul food to our great city.

“This new dining experience and its significance of location in the Harriet Tubman Square neighborhood is a landmark statement, and it will add much value to our residents and to our city’s future growth.

“Thanks to Fidelco Realty Group, we will embark on this new culinary journey together that will only enhance Newark’s vibrancy and flavor. I am more than confident that this new location will be a premier destination for residents and visitors to create lasting memories and enjoy food that will feed their bodies and comfort their souls.”

Berson said he’s happy to play a part in the opening — especially one with Wilson.

“It has been a very long time since a new, major restaurant has come to Newark, and I can think of no one better to do it than Melba Wilson,” he said.