In 2004, Rob Duckworth built the first of the five restaurants that share his name. This original Duckworth’s — located in Mooresville — offered a menu of Philly cheesesteaks, hand-cut fries and ice cream.
And while that sounds like a winning trio, the ice cream just wasn’t moving. After about a year in business, Duckworth decided to part ways with the sweet stuff. But what to do with all of the ice cream freezers?
He already had the cold storage space, and it didn’t take much work to convert those old freezers to coolers. Soon he was swapping chocolate ice cream for chocolate stouts. In the decade since, Duckworth has applied this same craft beer focus to four more locations.
The latest, located right at the intersection of Tryon and 7th St., opens this Monday, March 2. Despite it being brand-new, the building — which was constructed in 1912 — actually has an older, more historic feel to it than the older locations.
Of course, the building does have a history, and one that Duckworth’s will be continuing. It was once home to Jonathan’s Uptown Bar and Restaurant (and Jonathan’s Jazz Cellar) in the early ’90s, before the owners of Dilworth Brewing opened Atlantic Beer and Ice Co. there in 1994. That business gave way to Fox and Hound, which was the previous tenant prior to Duckworth’s moving in.
While the building has some history, you might not have known it if you went in while it was Fox and Hound. That bar covered the old brick with sheetrock, and hid the thick floor joists with drop ceilings. Fortunately, Duckworth saw the value in bringing some of these elements back to life.
All of this is juxtaposed by new paint, fixtures and modern amenities as well. If you want to watch a game uptown, I’m not sure you could find a bad spot at Duckworth’s. New flat-screen TVs are everywhere, hanging above the tables, the booths, the bar.
How many? “Too many,” said Duckworth, who noted there are upwards of 180 screens spread across the two floors. The only thing that might rival the number of TVs are the taps: there are 150 behind the bar on the main level, 16 self-serve taps on the second floor, and 20 more down in the basement.
The kegs supplying those taps are stored on the second floor in three separate glass-lined coolers, each with its own temperature range to allow the bar to pour different styles at their appropriate temperatures. And while this building has held its share of bars, none of them had their coolers on the second floor. These massive coolers and their accompanying kegs added 92,000 pounds of weight to the upper level. Burly as those old floor joists are, they just weren’t up to the task. Duckworth had steel I-beams installed for extra support, and even added a small elevator that allows them to bring up kegs with ease.
Head to the basement and through a dungeon-esque door and you’ll find The Cellar at Duckworth’s, which is not yet open (Duckworth anticipates an early May opening date). While the menu on the upper levels will be identical to other Duckworth’s (think cheesesteaks, pizza, sandwiches and salads), the cellar’s menu will be comprised of local ingredients and small plates. Because they hope to source many ingredients locally, the menu will change seasonally. From twenty taps will pour more exclusive beers, and they will also use style-specific glassware.
There will be two 50″ screens in the cellar, though unlike the TVs upstairs they won’t be showing any sporting events. No, these will display information on the 20 beers on tap, including ABV, style and what volume is left in the keg. That limited barrel-aged stout you’ve been looking for is on, but will kick after just a few more pints. Better get it quick.