Derrick Lee of Trumbull owned the Tavern in Monroe when he noticed the vacant building, formerly Caliente's, on Center Street in Shelton.
"We thought we could really make something out of it," said Lee, 43, who just opened Center Street Social to the public last Thursday.
He sold the Tavern in December and focused on 137 Center St. The restaurant's grand opening party is Thursday (Aug. 29) at 7 p.m.
Lee, who said he opened his first restaurant in New York at age 26, said he and his partner, John Barounis, found pieces of a barn from West Virginia and gutted the inside of the former Mexican restaurant.
"We spent the summer putting the wood up on the walls," Lee said. "My partner's really handy."
The business' specialties include the Thai Chicken Lettuce Wrap and the Chicken and Waffles, with maple bourbon butter. Edamame, or Japanese soybeans sprinkled with seasalt, are also popular, as is Hitachino White Ale, a Japanese beer, Lee said.
"We wanted to something more fun with this menu," the owner said. He also offers a variety of beers and drinks, some served in mason jars. Specials include Happy Hour on Saturdays and weekdays and $2 Tuesdays.
Center Street Social opens at 11:30 a.m. and serves brunch at 10:30 a.m. on Sundays. It has a Facebook Page.