Jack Brown’s makes its debut on the Downtown Mall and other local restaurant news

Aaron Ludwig, co-owner of Jack Brown’s Beer & Burger Joint, said the restaurant keeps its menu simple and its decor creative. Photo: Rammelkamp Foto Aaron Ludwig, co-owner of Jack Brown’s Beer & Burger Joint, said the restaurant keeps its menu simple and its decor creative. Photo: Rammelkamp Foto

Burgers, beers and bras

There’s nothing better than sneaking a few potato chips on a sandwich for that perfect crunch, elementary school cafeteria style, and the guys in the kitchen at Jack Brown’s Beer & Burger Joint will take care of that for you when you order a hamburger. They’ll also throw some macaroni and cheese on there—or, depending on the day, spinach and artichoke dip, nacho fixin’s or a caprese salad.

On Monday, February 9, owners Aaron Ludwig and Mike Sabin opened the fifth iteration of Jack Brown’s on Second Street SE, in the former space of The Box. The restaurant and bar, which originated in Harrisonburg, is known for its extensive beer list (more than 100 bottles and a constantly rotating draught selection), burgers, fries and fried Oreos. The menu is simple, and that was no accident.

“We mimic it off those old ’50s-style diners, and everything’s cooked on a flat-top griddle,” Ludwig said. “No lettuce, no tomato; it’s simple.”

The menu features “everyday burgers” like the jalapeño popper, topped with pickled jalapeños and cream cheese, and daily specials like the chili verde, with roasted poblano chilis and pepper jack cheese.

As for what to drink with your burger, beer snobs may consider joining the 100 Notch Club. Once you’ve tried 100 beers, you get your photo and a plaque on the wall, plus a personalized club shirt. Ludwig said members also get access to special events and tastings.

Now let’s talk about the decor. Yes, that deer head on the wall is wearing a helmet, and yes, those are bras draped over the spokes of that wagon wheel mounted from the ceiling. The undergarment-clad wheel tends to elicit some raised eyebrows, Ludwig said, but it’s a fixture and a favorite at each location. Last week an 80-year-old grandmother tossed her own bra onto the one at the Harrisonburg store, he said.

“It’s just about always trying to do something different and creative,” Ludwig said. “That’s where all the fun lies.”

The stein runneth over

You’ve got to drive as many as three or four minutes to get from one small brewery to another in this town. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Brian Martin will look to ease the craft brew commute by landing his new nano-brewery, St Fuad Brewing, somewhere near the downtown end of Preston Avenue by the end of the year. An ex-military man turned brewdog, Martin said he’s set his sights on recreating some of the Belgian and German-style brews he sampled while stationed overseas. He’s already worked with three local breweries, including most recently boiling up a weizenbock with Three Notch’d, and he said he’d be striking out on his own as soon as he can get the feds to cooperate and wrap up the paperwork.

“End of the year is the conservative guess, but we’re hoping for September or October,” he said.

Martin said he’s already purchased his brewing equipment, a two-barrel system capable of pumping out just north of 62 gallons per batch.

“Belgians are my big thing, but I have a soft spot for German styles as well,” he said. “I’m not a big hop head, so I won’t be doing a bunch of big IPAs.”

Three Notch’d is likely to be St Fuad’s neighbor when it opens its doors, and Martin expects that to be a good thing. He envisions the downtown corridor turning into its own sort of craft beer trail, with his spot joining the mix along with Beer Run’s new project, Kardinal Beer Hall & Garden, slated to go into the renovated Coca Cola bottling plant this spring. Once he has his location set, hopefully in the next month and a half, Martin plans to launch a crowdfunding campaign to help kickstart the business.

Pumped up

Red Pump Kitchen is looking to fuel its young love affair with Charlottesville’s Italo-philes by launching two new featured wine nights. On Tuesday, February 3, the Tuscan kitchen began offering select bottles of wine for half off. On Sundays, the new Don of the Downtown Mall is serving up small pizzas and a bottle of wine for $35.

The first Tuesday wine night featured bottles ranging from $18-24 after the 50 percent discount, including a 2009 Boroli Madonna Como. A spokesperson for Red Pump said the selections would rotate from week to week, with mid-price wines coming in at $18-32 and higher quality, rarer wines ranging between $35 and $70 after the discount. The Sunday night special likewise will feature rotating wines, paired with either a margherita, arugula, fennel sausage or chef’s choice pizzette. The chef’s choice pie will change weekly and show off hand-picked local ingredients intended to highlight wines like the 2011 Tachino Barbera, which was uncorked for the inaugural Sunday night special.

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