Kingston residents Brad and Vicki Hathorn have opened the Church Street Bar & Grill at 103 Church Ave. in Huntsville.
The restaurant had a soft opening last Tuesday, then opened full time on Thursday. The eatery will serve lunch and dinner, feature live music on Saturday nights, and offer hand-cut meat and steaks.
Church Street Bar & Grill is located in the former JamDot Chill Spot. The former eatery was owned by James and Dotchie Warren.
A large storage room was converted into a family-friendly dining room on the south end of the building. The bar itself was cut down in size so more seating could be brought in. Patrons will enter through a new door into the dining room.
“About five years ago, my wife and I looked to open a little barbecue joint in Kingston,” Huntsville native Brad Hathorn said during a break recently. “And the timing just wasn’t right for us and that didn’t work out ... We kept driving by and seeing this sitting here, thinking, ‘man, there’s an opportunity there if someone wants to work at it.’”
Hathorn said his daughter, Kayelin, pushed him to open the new eatery.
“I’ve known James my whole life, so we just kind of had a meeting of the minds and they felt we were a good fit for this. We felt like we were too, and came to an agreement on the place,” Hathorn said.
Hathorn said the Warrens “have bent over backwards” to help him in opening the restaurant.
Everyone hired to renovate the restaurant was local, Hathorn stressed. Mark Davis of Kingston has led the construction effort. Plumbers, electricians and others “have been wonderful,” Hathorn said.
“The mayor and the city council have really been good working with us,” he said. “They kind of pushed some things through that we had to get done to help us along. They didn’t have to go out that extra mile, but they did and I certainly appreciate it.”
Brad Hathorn works at Springdale Tractor Co. After the new restaurant is open a while, Vicki will be on-site during the day, then Brad will take over in the evening.
Church Street will have 14 employees at first, but more will be hired during Bikes, Blues & BBQ and other events in the region. Brad hired executive chef Will Wright and his wife, Joan, a pastry chef. They recently moved from Denver, Colo., to be closer to Joan’s mom in Little Rock. Will Wright once worked as the executive chef for the NFL’s Denver Broncos, Hathorn said.
“Their resumé is unparalleled for this area,” Hathorn said. “He’s bringing food here that we’ve never seen in this area.”
Hathorn said he saw Will’s resume on the Internet and reached out.
“They were looking for a home and we were looking for someone like them. I saw his resume on Indeed. I emailed him and I said, ‘If you’re looking for short hours and lots of pay, this ain’t your spot. But I can offer you really long hours and not a lot of pay, but I’ll give you the freedom to express yourself and run your kitchen.’”
Hathorn said he also wrote, “‘My only caveat is I want to put out great food at a reasonable price and some day I want to be on Triple D,’” he said of the Food Network’s show “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.”
Hathorn said his philosophy is simple.
“I don’t think people from here should have to drive to Fayetteville or Eureka Springs to get a good steak, when they can have one right here,” he said.
Eventually, the eatery will have outside dining on patios and an event space for receptions, parties and more.
Food deliveries are made three times a week, he said, with the fish of the week brought in on ice each Friday.
“We based our menu so, as for lunch, we want people to come in and have half a sandwich and soup and a drink and get out of here for less than 10 dollars,” he said.
He stressed that home-cooked food really means it.
“The brisket for the sandwiches, it’s been brining back there for 21 days. We didn’t buy it already done,” he said. “We bought the meat and we’ve been brining it.”
Sandwich meat and steaks will be cut daily on-site.
The restaurant and bar also will offer craft beer and top-label wines.
“It’s going to be a little more upscale,” Hathorn said as he walked through the new dining area. “We’re going to offer some really good specials. If you want to come in and have a meal for $10-12, you can do that. If you want to have a filet and a lobster tail and spend $50-60, you’re going to be able to do that, too, but that’s the kind of meal that would cost you $80-100 somewhere else.”
The Hathorns took control of the eatery on Feb. 1, and have been working day and night to get it ready.
“I feel great about my staff,” he said. “I feel great about the quality of food we’re putting out ... there is no one in this area that can put out food like he [Wright] can.”
As for the service staff, Hathorn said the restaurant “didn’t hire any kids.”
“We hired ladies that know what they were doing and had experience. We went for substance over flash, if you will,” he said. “We want to be successful in business and we want to make money, but at the same time we want these people that work here for us to make money and be successful and make the town successful.”
There’s another reason why Hathorn said he wanted a restaurant in Huntsville.
“I’ve worked in Springdale so long that I’ve lost touch with a lot of locals because you don’t see them every day ... so I’m getting to see people I haven’t seen in years. I like that,” he said.
Appetizers include deep-fried whole okra, shrimp cocktail, Cajun nacho fries and duck egg rolls. Sandwiches will include the Plow Hand, Assembly Worker, Store Clerk, The Farmer, Church Street French Dip, build-your-own burger, and Hathorn Philly Cheese Steak.
Entrées include smoked half-chicken, blackened redfish, country fried steak, pork chop, shrimp and grits, and pan-seared fresh catch on weekends.
Steaks will include an 8-ounce filet mignon, 12-ounce New York strip, 13-ounce smoked prime rib, a 13-ounce ribeye and an 8-ounce elk strip loin.
Desserts will include cheesecake, pies and Extreme Chocolate Cake. Side items will include baked potatoes, brown butter asparagus, roasted vegetables and more.
Church Street Bar & Grill is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday. The kitchen will close at 9 p.m. for the major entrées, but bar food will be available.
The restaurant is on Facebook and can be reached at 479-738-3663.