I was highly anticipating the opening of Morgan’s On Main last September, in fact, I could not wait. Not only was I curious about the food, but I was so hoping for something unique for Woodland to call their own. Like many people in Woodland, I had expectations! I fondly remember Tazzina’s Bistro, which previously operated (closed in 2012) within the same space as Morgan’s main restaurant and bar. I wondered, how can Morgan’s On Main challenge the expectations and create their own brand?
The answer to that question: Kellie Morgan, owner of Morgan’s On Main. Kellie has an elegance and grace about her but has the special ability to make you feel at ease, which in my mind is exactly what Morgan’s On Main is. The interiors are warm but masculine, with a combination of original brick and newly installed barn wood walls. The lighting is both romantic and rustic while the food is comforting and creative. I’ve dined at Morgan’s dressed up for an evening with my husband, and then another time in jeans with a good friend. Morgan’s is a complete package of fabulously comfortable ambiance and good eats.
We are a little bit spiffy and a little bit casual. We are in a farming community and we love that, so let’s own who we are! – Kellie Morgan
Here’s my conversation with Kellie Morgan.
Introduce yourself and your business.
My name is Kellie Morgan and I am the owner of Morgan’s On Main.
What is Morgan’s On Main’s cuisine?
It started out as something that is different than it is today. I feel we are a steakhouse, with ‘California fresh’ added to it. Originally, we were trying to emphasize the idea of California cuisine with a heavy emphasis on steaks. Since opening, we’ve landed on the idea that we are a steakhouse.
Can you tell me about that transition?
I think we initially shied away from it because we worried about what the expectations of a steakhouse would be. When you think of a steakhouse, you think of Cattleman’s, Ruth Chris, and Morton’s. And there was also such a demand for a steakhouse in Woodland. We were always asked the question, “When are you opening a steakhouse?”. I also wanted there to be some kind of emphasis that we would try our best to include local produce.
Like the Farm to Fork concept, but also focus on your steaks?
Yes, but most steakhouses wouldn’t necessarily call themselves “Farm to Fork”. My original concept was lots of good protein and interesting vegetables. I wanted people to come in and experience vegetables a different way than they are use to. At Maria’s Cantina (another restaurant owned by Kellie), I’ve been lucky with our Chefs and how they experiment with their vegetables. The first time I ever had parsnips was at Maria’s, which seems odd at a Mexican restaurant! It was paired with a New York Strip and spicy seasonings. It was so different, that I knew when we opened Morgan’s I wanted to offer that here.
Morgan’s has been open since September 2015. Do you still feel it’s “new”?
I still consider it to be in the baby stage. We just opened for lunch in November. I think we have a great lunch offering which we’ve not yet fully advertised. We’re also looking to expand our lunch to Saturday.
Tell me the steps you took to bring Morgan’s to Woodland.
When we opened Maria’s, we always intended on opening something that would pay tribute to Gorman’s (a popular restaurant in Yolo that is no longer in business). We had plans drawn up, parts were approved by the City, and we were going to build on the lot across from Maria’s. We were really focused on it. Then this space, where we are, opened up. So, the opportunity was available to put the restaurant on Main Street. At that point, our focus changed from a throwback to Gorman’s to honoring Tazzina’s . As soon as I knew we had this space, I knew people would be excited if we brought some of the class that Tazzina’s brought.
I felt, when Tazzina’s was open it was my go-to place for a dress up, an out-on-the-town evening. Instead of going to Sacramento, I would go to Tazzina’s with girlfriends or with other couples. I sat in the bar countless times, enjoying Monster Margaritas created by Don! I really wanted to pay tribute to Rebecca and Beth (Owners of Tazzina’s). I really felt they took a chance on our town.
I thought a big revamp of our space was necessary, especially with the two previous tenants being restaurants. Plus, I knew I wanted to provide a platform for our Chef, John Gamboni, to feature some of his favorite dishes that he served on the catering side. Through all of that transition, we expanded on the concept of mixing a little farm to fork along with a steakhouse theme. Once we started tastings, that’s where it really took shape.
Tell me about the interiors.
The interior is based on creating a place you can come dressed up for a fun night out, or dress down for comfort. It’s a fine balance, some people might think we’re fancy and they have to be dressed up. But that’s why our waitstaff is in jeans and a white crisp shirt; We are a little bit spiffy and a little bit casual. We are in a farming community and we love that, so let’s own who we are!
I worked with Farrell Scott and Emily Murphey who also worked on Maria’s Cantina. They understand my taste and where I’m coming from, so they dialed in on that right away. Jake Hayes and Jud Olsen from Raven Works did all the wood work and Monley Cronin was our General Contractor. These are all people we’ve worked with before and they understand our vision. The newest person we worked with is Kevin Hawkins. He did the patio and living wall out back.
Tell me about the layout of the restaurant.
When we entered into the lease with Tom Stallard, we had the opportunity to take over the other two units next to us. Originally, they were all connected and if you look at the front of the building you will see it’s all one building. It’s since been walled up and demised. I’d love to punch a hole in the wall, but that changes all the rules with the City. Upgrades and changes would have to be made and right now, I can’t do that. Maybe in the future, but right now I’m happy with these rooms.
Visit Woodland Note: There are four spaces; The lounge, the restaurant, The Bar, and The Room. Once The Bar opens, the space that is currently used as a bar will become the lounge.
The Room is used as overflow for the restaurant and as a banquet space. You can actually rent out The Room for parties and gatherings. The Bar, which we are hoping to open in the next six months, will operate in conjunction with the restaurant but also separately. In other words, when the restaurant closes between lunch and dinner, The Bar will be open early afternoon and stay open late, after the restaurant closes.
What’s next for Morgan’s, as you approach being open for a full year in September?
Well, I think we’re going to find our traditions. For instance, our Front of House Manager, Richard Gay, came up with the idea of December 23rd, every year, is Ugly Christmas Sweater event. He did a great job, he brought in a fire pit on the patio and we had smores. It was perfect! I’m hoping that next year, with The Bar open it will be a bigger event for us. New Year’s is another event I’m hoping we’ll expand on. I think we have a great space for people to be on New Year’s Eve.
Also, I think people can look to us to keep our menu options fresh, whether we change the local produce or with our specials. We will be adding the filet onto the menu. People want it and we were keeping it as a special, but if people want a filet they should be able to order a filet.
One thing I want to point out is how skilled Richard is with creating a great atmosphere with our front of house staff. We have so many young, green staff working for Morgan’s. They came out and applied for the jobs, and were so excited to be a part of something new in town. I can’t wipe the smile off these kid’s faces! I think Richard has helped to cultivate the feeling that they are a part of something fun and have a sense of ownership of their role and the restaurant. They may not get every single thing right, but they are always courteous to the clientele, and that makes me very happy.
What do you want Woodland to know?
I want Woodland to know that we purposefully created this atmosphere for them. We didn’t just throw it together. We really thought about it and we planned it out. We felt like we knew what the town was expecting from us and we think we got pretty close to the mark. The other thing I would like them to know is that I hope that in the spirit of making our town grow, that we all give each other second chances. If it’s coming here and you received a meal that was so-so, or a server that was a little unhappy, please come back again. That’s the only way we are going to make Woodland successful. We have to get past the idea that “Woodland won’t support ‘this’, or support ‘that'”, that’s just baloney! Too many times, Woodlanders are eating out in Davis, Winters, or Sacramento. If the choices are here, people will enjoy and support them. The more restaurants, the better.