By Josette Keelor - firstname.lastname@example.org
BERRYVILLE -- Remnants of the Old Battletown Hotel, homemade food and a family atmosphere are some of the reasons why The Berryville Grille is fast becoming the place to be in Clarke County.
Asian Sliders with fiery chili garlic mayo, Tempura Tuna Skewers with Wakame Salad and meat loaf with roasted garlic mashed potatoes are just some of the meals customers will find at the grill.
"We've always wanted to own our own restaurant business," says Brian McClemens, who opened the restaurant with his wife, Heidi, in December. For three years he had his eye on the location, which he says was a five and dime back in the day. Formerly in food service for 20 years, McClemens was later a project manager for a builder in Arlington and then moved to Berryville four years ago when his wife was transferred to the area for her job as a corporate chef for Visa.
"We've been working toward this goal for a couple years now," says Mrs. McClemens. "We did it all with our own money. ... It's a lot of work."
The building was vacant for four years, she says, during which time another entrepreneur began renovating the building but ran out of money before opening. When they noticed that the building was for rent, the McClemens contacted the landlord and began the process of bringing it up to code.
The couple spent three months renovating the building, she says, which still pays homage to its roots, offering decor dating back to the former Old Battletown Hotel, such as wooden window and door frames and lanterns along the walls in lieu of artwork.
"We wanted to have that really old, rustic feeling," says Mrs. McClemens.
McClemens' older brother, Frederick, joined the pair in their endeavor, following up his 40 years of food service experience in the kitchen to become the chef at The Berryville Grille.
"It's just something I got into when I was a child and never left," he says.
He previously ran a kitchen in Pittsburgh.
The McClemens, who met in Pittsburgh in 2001, felt that Berryville offered a niche for a family-style grill.
They were right.
"It's been busy every day, every night since we opened these doors," says Mrs. McClemens.
"We were offering something completely different," she says -- "American food with a little bit of pan-Asian flair. ... And we didn't want to be a bar," she adds. "We wanted to be more of a family dining experience with great food and reasonable prices."
One of the grill's biggest hits is Heidi's Meatloaf, which Mrs. McClemens points out has 16 ingredients.
"The ribs and the pulled pork, they're probably our No. 1 sellers," she says. The meat will melt in your mouth and fall right off the bone, she says.
On Fridays the menu includes a fish sandwich, and the restaurant offers a wide variety of wine and beer.
Another difference between The Berryville Grille and some of its competitors is that the restaurant works with local farmers and other business owners to help promote local commerce.
Besides using fresh, seasonal produce, the couple also offer bread and desserts baked by Greg Malucci, owner of Bon Matin bakery in Berryville.
"We were looking for some place local to support us with breads and desserts," Mrs. McClemens says. "Greg really came through for us."
[It's been] really beneficial for him because it's really boosted his business as well."
Some of the desserts he provides are fresh baked pies, a red velvet cake, a triple chocolate layer cake and a flourless chocolate whiskey bourbon cake, "which is very decadent," says Mrs. McClemens.
Throughout the year, the grill rotates desserts and will have other options available in the future.
The overall plan has suited the grill well so far.
On Friday nights the wait for a table could be up to 45 minutes.
"They like it because it's local," she says of her customers. "Everyone tries to promote Berryville."
Wasting no time doing what they can for the town, the McClemens have already taken measures to expand next door into the space left by The Lighthouse Steak & Seafood Restaurant. On June 1, they plan to open The House of Light, a Christian bookshop and cafe.
"That's what the Lord wants me to do," says McClemens, who has always wanted to own "a unique Christian store."
He plans for The House of Light to be "a little bit of everything," offering books, CDs, T-shirts by the company Kerusso and even coffee.
"I just feel like that's what the time needs."
The Berryville Grille, at 9 E. Main St., is open seven days a week, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and noon-8 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call 955-4317 or go online to www.theberryvillegrille.com.