Last November, Salem husband and wife Scott and Ashley Tayloe Switzer found themselves on the sidewalk at 210/212 East Main Street in Salem, peering into a vacant storefront, wondering about the right place to start Scott’s first restaurant. He’s a Culinary Institute of America grad and came back to Roanoke as the head chef of Metro.
Early this December, they will open The Blue Apron Restaurant and Red Rooster Bar in that very spot. It’s planned to be a cozy upscale restaurant and college downtown bar all in one, separated by a wall and kitchen, connected by a carefully designed entrance.
The menu is geared towards “authentic, modern, classic, American” with a nod to the European side of things. Scott will integrate local farm-raised product in his dishes as much as he can, especially when crops come into season, he said.
“I want lunch to be pretty vivacious,” he said of the 45-seat eatery. “Every college town that I’ve ever been to had at least one, if not two, small little upscale places [that are] fun, high energy, packed, and served upscale food.”
“Sizewise, it was just right for what Scott wanted to do, and it had good ‘bones,’” said Ashley, the architect of the two. She works with Balford Beatty Construction as an assistant project manager.
The European side of things, food-wise, comes from Scott’s culinary education, but a fondness for France, also expressed in much of Ashley’s design, comes from where he proposed to her – atop the Eiffel Tower.
“It was a good opportunity for her to jump in with two feet on a remodeling project that needs a lot of savvy,” Scott said. The inside was completely gutted and redone, but with attention to the circa 1880 building’s original structure.
Double doors found in the former back wall were restored and placed in the front of the restaurant. The outline of a mantel in the now-dish room is recognized by a faux mantel in the dining room. The tin-style ceiling, which was almost completely water damaged and behind several other layers of ceiling, is now honored in the ceiling’s paint scheme.
Some of the wooden table bases even come from the Patrick Henry Hotel in Roanoke – the old Fort Lewis Hotel (demolished in 1974) used to sit just beside the restaurant, where there is parking lot now.
“I think being sensitive to the past, to its historical references and trying to restore those references,” is important, she said.
*Post edited at 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 30