Friday, April 20, 2012

Rumblings of Progress, Pride of Caftsmanship

The rebuilding has begun with great momentum this week. I have moved on-site pretty much full time, working with Michael Pearson from Bradley Construction and out architects from RBA to finish the project. Some of the more meticulous design details need to be measured again, redrawn and fabricated. And now is when all of the disparate pieces begin to come together. Sound Design and Media, IT Infrastructure, Kitchen Equipment, Furniture, Low Voltage systems, Point Of Sale systems and more. 

What has truly made me sit up and take notice during this time is the incredibly skilled level of craftsmanship. Like any renovation, this building has proved a bit challenging at times and we have had to "wing" it on occasion, hand draw sketches, and make adjustments to the plan, based on field measurements and their accuracy.  On each occasion, and in every discipline, we have leaned on plumbers, framers, electricians and contractors to come up with solutions to problems, and they have delivered every time with remarkable speed and agility, often making suggestions and improvements to the concept that - taken at absolute value - seem almost imperceptible in their detail, but will prove to make a huge impact on our final product, both aesthetically and operationally. 

A word of thanks to these hardworking folks that show a great deal of pride in what they do. Their skills and work ethic are not lost on me. It has been inspirational to witness, and I am proud to have the opportunity work with them and learn from them.

Please talk a look at some of their handiwork below:


Front Counter and Assembly Line with pass thru windows cut:

Looking forward from the rear of the Prep Area:

End of the Counter, where Custom Butcher Block will be mounted:

Offset Corner Detail:

Looking in from the main Entryway. This area is designed to funnel your gaze all the way to the back of the restaurant giving it immediate depth and texture. 

The Office:

Door to the patio with the afternoon sun streaming thru. This is one of my favorite little details:

Pass Thru Window, looking into Cook Line and Prep Area in the background:

 Dead Fixtures:

Metal Studs:

Copper Pipe and PVC:

View from the street/parking lot. This window will make a huge difference During the day, allowing more light, but it also provides a great view looking to the Northwest back up East Blvd. toward Kenilworth St.

Inside View of above windows:

Patio area with ingeniously designed trench drain to solve a nagging wastewater concern. The grate we chose for the drain makes it appear practically invisible, with small grate openings, as to not catch high heels. THe wastewater plan is an original Michael Pearson design. We are lucky to have Michael as the Superintendent on the job. He is very good at what he does. This whole area, once a major concern, as the entire parking lot slopes towards the patio, will now be bone dry, even in the heaviest rains:

Walk up/Carry out Window. In progress, but we will be "warming" up this  area considerably with planters and a big awning. The magnolias and crepe myrtle that surround the patio also create welcome shade in the afternoons:

 Pickle Bar and Beverage Station:

Sawcutting the trench.

Part of our signage under construction

Friday, April 6, 2012

Walls Go Up

More photos of the site as it really starts to take shape here in the coming weeks. The restrooms are framed out and they cut the patio door, which lets in really nice afternoon sun.

The back line is up and the dry storage/mop sink room is taking shape - the finishing of which has been a feat of engineering and concrete design. We have also been dealing with some tricky surface water flow issues as the elevations around the patio and the storage room have been completely redesigned. However, the new drainage design is smart and I have every confidence that Michael and team have it licked.

There wil be 1000 of these decisions made in the field as we finish construction. It's great way to hone one's collaborative problem solving and decision making skills. And it's thrilling as hell.

Back Line Walls

Bucket O' Wire

Corridor out to rest rooms (on Right and Left) and the patio. 

Looking toward Front Door. Walls on near left will be cut open to kitchen. 

Dead Fixtures

Kitchen Door leading to Dry Storage

Dry Storage Room and Mop Sink mold. Notice elevation change from interior to exterior.

Patio and stairs to deck. Note door, cut today, leading to rest room and inside of restaurant.

 Metal Studs

Floor Planks

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Tru Ade Bottle

During the excavation of the restaurant, which is pretty much over at this point, I'd been hoping to unearth something unexpected and historic from its depths. A bottle cap, perhaps.

At the site today, one of the guys found something quite unexpected. An absolutely pristine and intact soda bottle. It was recovered from some work being done around an exterior wall. I washed it off the best I could  and snapped the pictures below.

After a little research, I found out that the Tru-Ade brand made a popular pasteurized fruit drink called Orangeade, among others. And according to the bottle, it was made right here in Charlotte, although the only research I could find indicated it was made in Tennessee and Washington, DC.

In any case, it is the dating that is most fascinating. On line, I found a bottle dated from 1941 that looks exactly like this one. The Drum restaurant wasn't built until 1948. So it is very possible that the bottle we found today predates even the original Drum restaurant. That, or it was served, enjoyed and discarded at the original Drum. Pretty damn cool.

Tru Ade went out of business in the mid 70's but has been revived as recently as 2011 and is available in pockets of North and South Carolina.

(NOTE: Orangeade is a local beverage beloved by Charlotteans for millennia, made most famously back in the 40's and 50's by Wad Smith at his place, Wad's - right down the street from JJ's. Wad also opened the original Drum restaurant, which will now be JJ's Red Hots.)

As it happens, we will be serving freshly made orangeade at JJ's. All of the above info is completely coincidental to this fact, as Milly Asbury (Thanks Milly!) convinced me to serve orangeade well before we found all of this out. Freaky.

Tru Ade

Tru Ade. Pasteurized, 'Not' Carbonated. Vacuum Sealed.

Check out the art deco "alligator" style relief on the neck of the bottle. Old School.

Close up of the killer logo.

Onion Ring Cutting

Last Friday, Jeremy and I went to the Sysco test kitchen facilities in Concord, NC. Our goal was to decide the fate of our onion rings. Our plan is to make "The best onion rings the world has ever known."

We tested beer batters and seasoned flour, basically. With onion rings, the simpler the better. Texture is very important, as are the bare, caramelized bits that permeate the coating. Also critical is the batter to onion ratio. To thin and all you taste is batter, too thick, you risk a chewy, too raw ring. Another nuance is the critical balance of flavors in the batter and the degree of doneness. It should be crisp and golden brown, but not overcooked and or scorched in any way.

In the end, we found what were were looking for. A flavorful, crisp, caramelized, balanced, onion-y tasting ring.


Seasoned flour batches.

Beer. For batter, of course.

Proof of beer going into batter, not the cooks.

Chuck from Sysco. Assisting in onion sourcing and alchemy.

Flour and seasonings

Jeremy Guthrie, Food and Beverage Director, prepping beer batter.

Four different batches, waiting to meet their doom.

Perfect Onion Rings

Seasoning with salt, right out of the fryer. a critical step.