Adam Musselman and Joshua Franklin’s pivot from full-time butchers to restaurateurs is complete.
Their new burger joint, Cobra Burger, opened July 2 for full-service indoor dining at 400 N. 27th St. after operating on a limited takeout-only basis since its launch in February.
Musselman and Franklin, who co-own the restaurant with Mike Epps, began cooking together while working at Cardinal State Butchers in Bon Air, where they were able to learn about meat and butchery.
“Coming from a butcher shop to this made it easier,” said Musselman. “We have the best ground beef in the city, period. We work with an awesome farm, Grayson Natural Farms in Independence, Virginia. All grass-fed, 100 percent pasture raised, conscious land management, you name it. We grind every day.”
Franklin said that on top of general ownership roles, he was also the cheese monger, wine director and jack-of-all-trades at Cardinal State, while Musselman was the head butcher before the shop closed in August 2020.
“Cardinal was a great place for Adam and I to get our feet wet and learn business ownership and how much effort and work it is to be an effective part of the community,” Franklin said.
While at Cardinal State, they operated Cobra Burger as a pop-up for about three years. Prior to that, Musselman and Franklin had a pop-up called the Ivy Wall that was more focused on fine dining.
“We’d do like eight courses (at the Ivy Wall), you didn’t know the menu beforehand, you didn’t know the venue unless you bought a ticket. It was a blast but it was a lot of work,” said Musselman. “Joshua eventually said ‘Let’s do a burger pop-up,’ knowing that we both had a love for burgers. They were his favorite food as a baby.”
Cobra Burger also has its ABC license and has arranged its own in-house brew, Cobra Pale, made by locally based Veil Brewing. It’s sold in cans at the restaurant and on draft at Veil’s taprooms.
Franklin said that they won’t have wine in-house, but people are welcome to purchase a bottle at neighboring Second Bottle wine shop and bring it to the restaurant.
“We’re working out a deal with them where they will have ‘Cobra coupons.’ If you buy your wine over there and bring it over here, we’ll have little to no corkage fee. They’re awesome and we’d rather foster a relationship there and help support everybody.”
Booze aside, Cobra Burger does not want to be recognized as another bar in the city. They say that the star of the Cobra show is the food.
“There are bars that serve food and restaurants that have bars,” said Musselman. “We are a restaurant that has a bar.”
They’re adding desserts to the menu, working with local shop Ruby Scoops for ice cream, cookies and floats.
The run-up to the full opening included renovations to the interior of the Church Hill space, which was previously home to Dutch & Co.
Franklin and Musselman didn’t allow pictures of the space at the time of a recent interview with BizSense, but they said they are very excited about their bathrooms and their gold grout. They have been working with contractor Abe Abunab, who traveled to Richmond from Detroit to do the work.
The duo said that taking the final step in the business and going from pop-up to full-service restaurant is something they’re more than ready to take on.
“While daunting, certainly, we’re nothing short of ecstatic to share the space with everyone and have folks come in. It was and is a pretty massive investment and we’re more than happy to show it off,” Franklin said.
They also want to make it clear that they are in no way affiliated with a similarly-named and themed Cobra Cabana restaurant in Carver, and added, jokingly, that there’s no beef between the two businesses.