MOREHEAD CITY — One of downtown’s hottest spots has a new restaurant in addition to its popular bar overlooking the Morehead City waterfront.
Jack’s Waterfront Bar held a soft opening for its new restaurant Labor Day weekend, with a grand opening planned for sometime after the N.C. Seafood Festival in early October. The restaurant is on the second floor of Jack’s building at 513 Evans St., with sweeping views of the surrounding waterfront and downtown.
The bar and restaurant are owned by Jeff and Keri McCann, who first opened Jack’s in 2008. Ms. McCann, who is also a Morehead City councilwoman, said the plan from the beginning was to eventually open a restaurant to go with the bar, but they wanted to get established first. The restaurant took over what was previously a private event space on the second floor, with a third floor for a new event space in the works.
“There was always going to be an extension to Jack’s. We weren’t sure if it was going to be downstairs or if we were going to build a second story, but we decided to build a second story because the view was so pretty,” Ms. McCann said. “We are going to go up one more story. We have the plans just about ready to submit for a permit.”
Ms. McCann said although the vision from the beginning was to have a bar, restaurant and event space, they tackled it bit-by-bit, opening one section of the bar at a time and slowly expanding. She said it was a deliberate business move that she thinks has paid off.
“The one thing we didn’t want to do was get into a mountain of debt trying to do everything at once,” she said. “So that’s kind of what we did up here too (in the restaurant). You just move along, make a little money, put it back in your business, make a little more money and put it back in your business.”
Jack’s restaurant menu features specialty pizzas, sandwiches, salads and a few other favorites, like mac n’ cheese. Ms. McCann gave the disclaimer that she and her husband are not trained chefs, so she welcomes suggestions on how to improve on the menu offerings.
“We decided to stick with what we know. Neither of us are chefs, we didn’t go to culinary school,” she said. “…We decided to add a few things to the menu that people really like, so we have baked meatballs, mac n’ cheese, subs, things that we know how to do.”
Ms. McCann said they would like to eventually introduce seafood dishes, but first and foremost, they want to perfect the items they do serve. Plus, she joked, there is a seafood restaurant within a stone’s throw in any direction from the bar.
“We wanted to get a menu together that we knew that we could make right and consistent every time you came,” she said. “…We might introduce it as a seafood Saturday, something along those lines.”
Ms. McCann said the bar staff from downstairs have stepped up to help get the restaurant up and running, acting as servers, hosts and kitchen staff in addition to bartenders. The restaurant is accepting applications for all positions, but Ms. McCann knows the labor market is tight right now, so she said she appreciates how hardworking her staff has been in the meantime. Rudy Taitague, who was previously a bouncer for the bar, was hired fulltime to help manage the restaurant, which Ms. McCann said has been a huge help, as well.
“It’s great to have someone on board who we know and trust so much,” she said. “We’ve been really lucky that we can share the staff from downstairs, but they’re going to get tired out eventually.”
So far, Ms. McCann said reception to the new restaurant has been positive. Jack’s has been a popular spot for drinks, live entertainment and dancing for more than 10 years, so she is hopeful the new restaurant will continue that legacy and bring the business into a new era.
The scene in downtown Morehead City has changed dramatically since Jack’s first opened in 2008, Ms. McCann said. At the time, there were few options for drinks and nightlife was practically non-existent. Now, the downtown is full of bars, restaurants old and new, shops and a range of other options, and Ms. McCann said walkability has improved so foot traffic is higher than ever.
Ms. McCann said Jack’s has been credited with helping revitalize downtown Morehead City, but she said others before her were doing that work before she and her husband came along.
“I can’t take it (credit) just alone. There were a lot of other things that had to take place in order for this to work,” she said. “Once people started coming here, it offered opportunities for other businesses, so it became kind of a hub.”
Going forward, Ms. McCann hopes the new event space is the final major addition to Jack’s, but there are still some other ideas in the works. She wants to eventually begin offering coffee and pastries from Sweet Beans Coffee downstairs, and she’s always thinking of ways to bring more people into the bar and restaurant, whether it’s live music or sporting event viewings.
Overall, McCann said opening the restaurant has been a positive experience, and she is excited to see what the future holds not only for Jack’s, but all of downtown Morehead City.
“It’s exciting to be a part of,” she said.
To learn more about Jack’s, including operating hours, visit the website jackswaterfrontbar.com.
Contact Elise Clouser at firstname.lastname@example.org; by phone at 252-726-7081 ext. 229; or follow on Twitter @eliseccnt.