Motown stars bring soul food to the Strip

Gladys Knight

Gladys Knight

Not to be outdone by rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd or country star Toby Keith, a group of Motown moguls from the 1960s recently opened a Strip restaurant of their own.

Eight celebrities, including Otis Williams of the Temptations, Jackie Jackson of the Jackson 5 and Gladys and Bubba Knight of Gladys Knight and the Pips, co-own Catfish Alley, a soul food joint that opened last month in the Hawaiian Marketplace, 3743 Las Vegas Blvd. South.

“We decided that the best catfish in the country should be available on the Las Vegas Strip,” Williams said.

The casual restaurant serves such Southern classics as jumbo shrimp, fried chicken and barbecue brisket. Dinners range from $5.99 to $14.99.

Live musical acts entertain guests, and there’s a dance floor for people moved by the tunes. Four television screens broadcast performances by the Supremes, Marvin Gaye and Smokey Robinson. Talent showcases will soon round out the lineup.

“We want to have an event every night,” managing member Rod Gaines said. “We’re going to make it a fun, happening place to be.”

The eatery is Catfish Alley’s second location. The original restaurant opened in 2006 on East Flamingo Road, then moved two years later to the Fresh and Easy shopping center at Silverado Ranch Boulevard and Bermuda Road, where it remains today. It is owned and operated by former military man Ken Browder and his wife, Ruth.

Gaines, a retired corporate executive with J.P. Morgan Chase Bank and Trans World Airlines, and his business partner, LaMonte McLemore, an original member of the 5th Dimension, first met Browder as restaurant customers and fell in love with his concept and food. Using McLemore’s connections to the entertainment industry, they rounded up celebrity investors after finding available space in the Hawaiian Marketplace and raised the $250,000 they needed to secure a lease.

Now, they hope to expand Browder’s brand locally, then nationally.

“We’ve got a big dream,” Gaines said. “We’re trying to open 300 locations around the country in the next five years. We want to have fun and create jobs.”