"I want this to be a come-here-four-nights-a-week kind of place," says Andy McClure, who hopes to open Citizen Burger Bar on the Downtown Mall on Memorial Day weekend.
McClure and his architect, Mike Stoneking, have completely gutted the old Siips space.
Restaurateur Andy McClure says he's been trying to open a place on the Downtown Mall for several years. And he came close a few times, once at The Gleason, and another time closer downtown where Jean Theory is right now. Now finally, as the Dish recently reported, he's secured the space formerly occupied by Siips Wine & Champagne Bar, which, after four years, bowed out in February. Now the historic store space, formerly occupied by such businesses as C.H. Williams, Hamilton's of Bermuda, and April's Corner, will become Citizen Burger Bar.
McClure, who owns The Virginian, West Main Restaurant, the Biltmore, and Three, says he's shooting for a Memorial Day weekend opening, but he's got his work cut out for him. Siips was a dark and cavernous space, so McClure and his architect, Mike Stoneking, have basically gutted the place for a reinvention of the space.
"There are a lot of found treasures here," says Stoneking, who shows a reporter what was found when the floor in one of the windowed bays on the facade was uncovered. "That's original Downtown Mall sidewalk from 1925."
Another architectural feature will be a glass "case" on one wall that will expose the intricate guts of the building, as well as mirrors around the distinctively glassy storefront to allow passersby to peer into the restaurant.
McClure says he loves what he calls "shotgun restaurants," where you walk in and feel immediately at home, where everything is right there in front of you: a long wood-topped bar, booths for dining, various corners to gather with friends for a drink and an appetizer, and several big-screen TVs for game-watching. There will even be bar stools and a counter right in front of the open kitchen to watch meals getting prepared.
"I want this to be a come-here-four-nights-a-week kind of place," says McClure.
And the food? McClure says it will be classic American, with an emphasis on burgers, of course. And we're talking local, grass-fed beef burgers, and a focus on local food that will come with an educational component as well.
"Yes, we want people to know our food is local," says McClure, "but we also want to explain why buying local is good for you, and good for the community."