Armed with plenty of beer and smoked meat, Cynthia Matthews is ready to bring a long vacant Jackson Ward restaurant space back to life.
Work is underway on Jacksons Beer Garden & Smokehouse, located in the former Croaker’s Spot location at 119 E. Leigh St.
Croaker’s Spot, a longtime Richmond restaurant, vacated the building in 2010 – eventually relocating to the Manchester neighborhood at 1020 Hull St.
Matthews, a first-time restaurateur, said she is targeting an October or November opening date for the venture.
“The concept for the restaurant is to have plenty of smoked meats paired with good draft beers,” Matthews said. “I feel like the location lends itself to be the neighborhood hangout…we’ve been received well by many of our neighbors, and we’re ready to join that growing dining scene in the area.”
The restaurant will open daily for lunch and dinner and host a Sunday brunch, Matthews said.
Matthews, who is leasing the location from Richmond-based Hanson Company, is working with a few silent partners who are helping finance the restaurant for an undisclosed amount. She said her restaurant is not affiliated with Croaker’s Spot.
“We are investing a lot,” Matthews said. “We want it to be something the neighborhood will enjoy and be proud of once we are completed with the renovations.”
Located at the corner of Leigh and Second streets, plans call for the location to be gutted to accommodate about 73 people inside, Matthews said. Additional seating and an outside bar are also slated for a pocket park under renovation next to the Hippodrome Theater on Second Street.
“We’re going to have a full bar, and plan to have plenty of local beers on draft and in bottles,” Matthews said. “I love going out to eat and sampling all Richmond has to offer, so I know what type of beers will pair well with our dishes…there’s going to be plenty for everybody.”
And don’t expect Matthews’ restaurant to skimp on the meat.
Jacksons Beer Garden & Smokehouse will be incorporating smoked ribs, chicken, steak, pork and salmon into many of her dishes, Matthews said. The menu includes pile-high sandwiches and nachos packed with meat, along with smoked meats coupled with salads and other entrees.
Matthews added that a number of Southern comfort foods, such as fried okra and fried green tomatoes, will also be included in the menu.
Matthews, an eight-year resident of Richmond by way of Ohio and a Navy veteran, said establishing Jacksons Beer Garden & Smokehouse in Jackson Ward was an easy decision given the residential and commercial investment, and development, surging into the area.
“When I looked for a place to establish my restaurant, Jackson Ward was the clear choice,” Matthews said. “It’s an incredibly historic area; there is a lot of development happening around us, which make it an ideal place to start a business.”
Eventually, Matthews would like to incorporate shuttle service to and from Jacksons Beer Garden & Smokehouse.
“We’re still trying to decide on where those stops will be located,” Matthews said. “I would like to work with the hotels in the area, particularly those along Broad [Street], to see if we could get some stops over there….We’re also looking at stops in VCU.”
Matthews said she wants to enhance the dining scene in Jackson Ward by developing a concept that does not interfere with a number of eateries in the area.
“That’s going to set us apart,” Matthews said. “There will be something for everyone in Jackson Ward, and that’s how we all are going to be successful.”