BY TRACY ZOLLINGER TURNER
When she was a junior at Bloomington High School North, Kristen Shelley hit the books hard, researching Greek gods and goddesses for a mythology competition in her English class. She won. And like an oracle from the ancients, the prize was a gift card to The Trojan Horse restaurant. This spring, Shelley, now 37, and her husband Michael, also 37, became the new owners of Bloomington’s iconic, 40-year-old Greek restaurant.
Kristen says that while she enjoyed The Trojan Horse’s saganaki (flaming cheese), gyros, and baklava many times while growing up here and attending Indiana University, becoming its new co-owner was a matter of serendipity.
In early 2017, Kristen’s father, Bloomington attorney Michael Carmin, told the couple he’d heard a rumor that the restaurant’s founding owner, Denny Stalter, was thinking about selling. In May of that year, the Shelleys, who lived in Louisiana, contacted Stalter, and by March 2018, the deal was done. Michael returned to Bloomington to take over right away, followed shortly thereafter by Kristen and their 2-year-old daughter, Aurelia.
Kristen says owning a restaurant is “one of those ‘if only’ dreams we talked about off and on for over a decade, never really thinking it would actually happen. So, the fact that it did still feels unreal.”
She and Michael met as college students in 2002 and married in 2011. Michael, who grew up in South Bend, Indiana, worked at Village Deli and Scotty’s Brewhouse before moving to Louisiana, where he honed his skills as the general manager of a family restaurant called Sammy’s Grill and a seafood restaurant called Roux 61. While Kristen once worked at the Jiffy Treet on North Walnut and at a La Madeleine French Bakery & Café in Baton Rouge, the majority of her career experience has been law office administrative work.
Plans are to expand the restaurant’s social media presence and perhaps create speedier take-out options. The popularity of Lebanese restaurants in Louisiana has them considering some new menu items, but they intend to remain faithful to The Trojan Horse’s legacy.
“Denny had a good thing going,” Kristen says. “It’s been doing well for 40 years and it’s our goal to make sure it stays that place on the corner that people know and love.”