The newest burger joint in Charlottesville is hoping its laid-back approach will bring in beer and food lovers looking for a reprieve from the hustle and bustle of activity on the Downtown Mall.
Jack Brown’s Beer & Burger Joint, which held its grand opening in early March, is not the typical downtown restaurant looking to draw in foodies eager to munch on locally sourced ingredients in a sleek setting. The bra-covered wagon wheel hanging from the ceiling, license plates and animal skulls mounted on the walls, mixed in with old tin beer cans and signs, are just some of the examples of Jack Brown’s rustic atmosphere.
However, the main draw may be that Jack Brown’s is exactly what it says it is: a beer and burger joint. It’s not for the wine and salad lovers.
A quick look at the website explains its purpose clearly: “The menu is purposely simple. Jack Brown’s is a bar that sells a great burger. It is not a restaurant trying to please all tastes.”
“I think the atmosphere of Jack Brown’s will set us apart from other places,” said Allie Toro, general manager of Jack Brown’s. “We are known for being a place where folks can get a good beer and a quick bite to eat. It’s a fun and laid-back environment with a personable staff.”
Toro said the bar is the realization of a long-time vision of two childhood friends, Aaron Ludwig and Mike Sabin.
“They had discussed how awesome it would be to have a bar when they grew up. Later in life, Aaron was having a particularly bad day at work and was venting to Mike over the phone. Mike, who was a chef in Miami at the time, responded with, ‘Let’s open that bar that we’ve always been talking about.’ So, a couple weeks later, the two dudes went looking for the perfect spot for a bar. What they found was an itty bitty sports cards store. They thought it was perfect! And thus, was the beginning of Jack Brown’s in Harrisonburg.”
The popularity of the beer and burger joint has quickly grown with Ludwig and Sabin expanding from the initial Harrisonburg spot to locations in Charlottesville, Elkton, Roanoke, Richmond and Birmingham, Ala. They also plan to open a location in Nashville, Tenn., according to the website.
“I don’t think Jack Brown’s is defined by any one particular theme,” Toro said. “It is a craft beer and Wagyu beef burger bar with a laid-back, welcoming atmosphere. It’s a little bit biker bar, diner dive and surfer hang out all rolled together. We have a friendly and knowledgeable staff that is happy to talk beer with you!”
Jack Brown’s also has a lot of events on tap for those looking to celebrate the holidays or try some local brews.
“Events have always been a large part of Jack Brown’s,” Toro said. “Right now, we are working towards hosting beer-related events every week, typically Tuesdays. We host Steal-a-Pint nights where we promote a particular brewery. We will have only their beers on tap and the customer gets to take a brewery pint glass home with them when they order one of the draft beers. We also love celebrating holidays at Jack Brown’s. Since we’ve opened, we have celebrated Mardi Gras and St. Paddy’s Day. We have an Earth Day event coming up with New Belgium on April 22 and a Steal-a-Pint night with 3 Brothers Brewery from Harrisonburg on April 14.”
The grand opening event on March 3 featured a variety of local beers and the bar has already hosted Steal-a-Pint nights and special events with Champion Brewing Co., Blue Mountain Brewery and South Street Brewery. There is another Steal-a-Pint night set for April 7 with Hardywood Park Craft Brewery out of Richmond.
People can keep up with Jack Brown’s events by following the beer and burger joint on Facebook.
Jack Brown’s also has a program called The Notch Club, in which patrons have to create a list of 100 different beers available in-house and drink them all over the course of their visits.
“It’s a great way for guests to get to know craft beer really well and gives the staff a chance to get to know their customers and what types of beers they like to drink,” Toro said. “As an incentive, once you are part of The Notch Club, you get a shirt with your name on it, your photo on our social media pages, discounts at beer tastings, invited on field trips and have a beer in-house that is only offered to notch club members. “
The general manager also noted that while Jack Brown’s doesn’t use a lot of locally-sourced items, it does use Wagyu beef for the burgers.
“Wagyu is a type of domestic kobe beef that is rich in flavor and buttery in texture,” Toro said. “It is a super high-grade meat that is ranked higher than USDA premium grade meat. We top these delicious burgers with unique toppings, like mac ‘n’ cheese or spinach and artichoke dip.”
In addition, Toro said Jack Brown’s is “definitely interested” in collaborating with local restaurants.
“We are constantly thinking up other fun and interesting burger toppings and would love to see what other locals would like to put on their burgers,” she said.
The Showalter burger served on Sundays is an example of a local collaboration. The burger is topped with Applewood smoked bacon, an egg and cheese, sandwiched between a glazed doughnut from Spudnuts.
Jack Brown’s, located at 109 2nd St. SE, is open every day from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. and serves its entire menu up until last call at 1:30 a.m. The burger bar also is looking into partnering with OrderUp to provide delivery service.