Three and a half weeks after Savor Cafe closed its doors on West Morehead Street, patrons still approached the once-popular FreeMoreWest restaurant in twos and threes, not expecting to find locked doors at noon on Wednesday.
Instead of a lively lunchtime crowd and diners enjoying Carolina Burgers or banana pudding, they were greeted by a man in a T-shirt and shorts. “Savor’s closed,” he told people each time from within the darkened space, chairs and tables behind him still askew, beer and wine still lingering in the cooler.
“For good?” one woman in a blue sweater asked.
“For good. There’s the sheriff’s eviction notice right there, but we’re going to open a new place soon,” the man said.
What they may not have known is they were talking to Chris Ingram, co-owner of NoDa favorite JackBeagle’s.
JackBeagle’s is opening its third location at the former Savor Cafe, 1404 W. Morehead St. They may have a lot of work to do, but Ingram and co-owners Mike Crowley and Mike McGuire have never shied away from hard work, or from “Beagling it,” as Ingram would say.
The spot, located within walking distance of the Panthers’ Stadium and a block from American Burger Co., Rhino Market & Deli and Pinky’s Westside Grill, has been on Ingram’s mind a while. “We actually tried to buy it a year and a half ago and keep it as Savor, but we got outbid,” Ingram said.
For 60 years, the space was the home of Greek-owned restaurant The Brown Derby, which closed in 2007.
“The new landlord reached out to us when Savor went out of business,” Ingram said.
The opening date is to be determined; it will be based on permitting for new signage and completion of the outdoor patio. “If everything goes 100 percent smoothly, we’d like to be open for the Panthers’ home opener,” he said. “But that’s going to be a tough task.”
The outdoor patio expansion will include a walk-up bar and walk-in coolers, with a bartender serving beer. Eventually, existing windows may be converted into roll-up garage doors. On game days, Ingram said the parking lot will be roped off for tailgating, with the ability to have bands performing in the parking lot.
“The Beagle mascot will be chasing around Sir Purr and Homer the Dragon,” Ingram said.
Inside, new furniture and TVs and a new coat of paint will be an immediate priority. The layout will stay the same as Savor had it for now, with future possibilities to include knocking out the wall that currently connects the two dining areas. The larger kitchen will allow for an expanded menu, Ingram said. The hours are to be determined — Ingram doesn’t anticipate being open as late as Beagle’s in NoDa; that will depend on the amount of foot traffic in the area after 11 p.m.
This third announced location helps Ingram to realize his dream of growing the restaurant, known for its chicken wings and their signature garlicky mac-n-cheese called Jack Mac. “JackBeagle’s is going to be bigger than Hooters someday,” Ingram once said.
The second announced Beagle’s location is being constructed in Mount Holly, where the owners are building a pedestrian footbridge to connect from the restaurant to the outdoor patio. They anticipate opening in late fall.
Ingram and Crowley are also opening Stu’s Barrel House in NoDa. Ingram said work there is 90 percent done and he hopes for an early fall opening.