Melba’s, the 24-hour restaurant that prides itself on being “America’s Busiest Po’boy Shop,” is now open on Tulane Avenue. The restaurant joins Melba’s original location on Elysian Fields Avenue.
Melba’s is owned by Scott Wolfe and his wife, Jane Wolfe, a born and raised New Orleanian, got his start in 1982 when he and Jane purchased a Wagner’s Meat grocery store at Desire and Galvez streets. They expanded to 10 store locations throughout the city before retiring from the endeavor in 2003.
Wolfe is also owner of Wolfman Construction. Property development became his main business focus after Hurricane Katrina. In 2012, his company developed the property on Elysian Fields and Claiborne Avenue, which became Wolfe’s first Melba’s location.
“I decided to develop a brand there,” Wolfe said. “We turned that location into America’s busiest po’boy shop. It’s open 24 hours a day and has become an iconic part of New Orleans that serves over 2,000 people daily.”
The Melba’s location on Tulane is located on a triangular corner where two buildings used to sit, one of which was a car wash. Wolfe wasn’t entirely on board with buying the space and opening a second location of Melba’s when he was approached by a contractor who had office space in the building.
“I looked at the demographics, population, and traffic and the numbers looked good; I knew that Melba’s would do well here,” Wolfe said. “It’s a unique building and we thought it would be a good spot to serve the community.”
Wolfe considers Melba’s a technology-forward restaurant. There are multiple ways to order at both locations including self-serve kiosks, where customers can enter their orders onto a screen. The location on Tulane also includes a walk-up window for easy service for customers on the go. Wolfe especially prides himself on the Melba’s phone app, where customers can earn discounts.
“We have over 10,000 users of our phone app,” Wolfe said. “So, you can order on the app, on the kiosks, on our website, you can get the food delivered through various apps, or you can just come in and order the old-fashioned way. We’re proud to be ahead of the pack because we were doing the self-serve kiosks even before Covid.”
Melba’s aims to be a one-stop shop for anyone looking for a good meal. Best known for its po’boys, the restaurant serves local favorites such as fried shrimp, hot sausage and roast beef po’boys. The menu also includes hot plates with stuffed bell peppers, shrimp plates, red beans and rice, and much more.
Other menu highlights include fried chicken, breakfast plates and an array of sides: corn girts, 9th Ward gumbo, baked macaroni, jambalaya and bread pudding. The spot also serves frozen daiquiris and hosts daily daiquiri specials such as $2 for a 12-ounce daiquiri on Monday and $10 for a half-gallon daiquiri on Tuesday.
All the food is made in-house and from scratch and can be ordered in “catering” sizes for parties and corporate events.
“Po’boys is our flagship, but we wanted to offer a variety of things so that if you come in with your family you will have some options,” Wolfe said.
For those looking to do some work while enjoying their lunch, Melba’s Tulane location will offer an internet café on the second floor of the building with an area that will include space that customers can rent through a subscription service. The outdoor level of the upstairs is complete with seating, overlooks Tulane Avenue and will be covered with a canopy. The space can also be rented out for parties and events and will include live entertainment on the weekends.
Moving beyond food service, Jane Wolfe has started a literacy program in which authors distribute free books to the community in partnership with Melba’s.
“We have given away about 18,000 books so far and she has gotten world-class authors to be a part of it,” Scott Wolfe said. “We’re starting to become as well-known for the literacy program as we are for the po’boys.”
Authors that have been a part of the literacy program include Elizabeth Williams, Maurice Ruffin, Deirdre Mask and Freddi Evans.
Open 24 hours