Richard Ridge and Kelley Tripp wanted to create a gathering place on the Downtown Mall, a restaurant and bar where folks can become regulars. Given that the doors have only officially been open since last week, it’s hard to say if everybody knows your name yet at the new space, but it’s certainly already drawing a crowd.
Introducing The Fitzroy, the newest place to grab dinner and a drink on the Downtown Mall. Located at 120 E. Main St. in the old Blue Light Grill spot, The Fitzroy has big shoes to fill. Blue Light was a downtown staple for 15 years, serving up classic seafood dishes and swanky cocktails in a sleek, preppy atmosphere. Ownership quietly changed hands in April of last year, and in November, Blue Light served its final meal before Ridge, Tripp and their other business partners, Ryan Rooney and Kevin Badke, began overhauling the space and menu.
Six months later, it is rebranded and almost entirely unrecognizable, with an exposed brick wall, black-and-white subway-style tile with a capital letter F behind the newly built bar, dark-stained wood shelving and a lot more seating. (Jeannette Andamasaris at JAID Style conceptualized the overall vision of the space.) During its grand opening last Tuesday evening, guests packed into the seats around the bar, the high-top tables, the cozy tufted booths and the banquette seats lining the brick wall (all of which were designed and built by Hector Zamora of Zamora General Contracting). Outdoor seating is limited for now, but Ridge says the full patio will open within the next few weeks.
“A lot of the changes we made were aesthetic, but we also made some more operational changes,” Ridge says. “We wanted to create more room for people, and it was great to see folks fill those spaces. You get a different feel depending on which part of the restaurant you’re sitting in.”
The menu is more reminiscent of down-home comfort food, but, as promised to the loyal seafood-loving Blue Light crowd, guests can still indulge in a giant platter of raw oysters on the half shell with horseradish, and cocktail and mignonette sauces. For those who prefer their shellfish cooked, consider the oysters Rockefeller (roasted with spinach, sausage, bacon, absinthe and Parmesan cheese) or oysters larroquette (roasted with andouille sausage and lemon-rosemary butter).
As for the inspiration behind the menu, Ridge says it’s all about options.
“With the format we have, you can really make it customizable, and people have appreciated that,” he says. “We’ve seen people build different meals based on certain dietary needs, whether they like to share or not, or how hungry they are.”
Sandwiches include The Fitzroy burger made with dry-aged Seven Hills beef that’s ground in-house every day, a fried shrimp po’ boy with remoulade, buttermilk-battered fried chicken with lemon cayenne aioli and an all-things-local club with chicken, ham, bacon and avocado. Items like a thick-cut pork chop, short rib stroganoff and house meatloaf make up the entrée section, plus there’s a daily fish (halibut, for the time being) with caramelized lemon and herbs. The cauliflower “steak” is the only vegetarian-friendly main dish, but the giant slice of a cauliflower head served with a beurre blanc made from Bold Rock cider, tarragon and Parmesan is surprisingly hefty and flavorful, so non-meat-eaters may be perfectly content ordering that every time.
The entrées come without sides, which is where the mixing and matching comes in. Pair anything with a bowl of clam chowder, order a full-sized kale Caesar salad with shrimp or chicken for the table to share or choose from the list of eight available sides. The mac-and-cheese features cavatappi pasta with a silky-smooth sharp cheddar cheese sauce, broiled to create a light crust on top. Hand-cut French fries are available as a side, as are duck-fat potatoes, fried to crispy perfection and served lightly seasoned in a small cast iron skillet. There’s also a list of appetizers that includes barbecue shrimp, French onion dip and dry-rubbed wings, a twist on the classic buffalo served with Crystal hot sauce and house ranch.
“It’s been great to see people interact with the menu and make their own dining experience,” Ridge says.
The Fitzroy is serving dinner seven days a week, with late-night hours every day (closing at midnight Sunday through Tuesday and 2am Friday and Saturday).
“We really want to have this balance where we feel like a nice restaurant but also transition into a great place to get a drink late-night,” Ridge says, adding that they plan to start serving lunch and weekend brunch once they’ve got their bearings on dinner and late-night.
This article was updated at 5:12pm June 9 to name the designers on the project.