Thinking Globally, Cooking Locally
Worldwide Comfort Food Feature Of New Eatery
HARRISONBURG — After a combined 15-plus years working in the downtown wining and dining scene, two local restaurateurs are ready to do their own thing.
Jeff Minnich and Amanda Cannon hope to open foodBARfood in early March in a renovated space on West Bruce Street just west of Liberty Street.
Minnich, 56, of Timberville, worked for five years as the executive chef at Clementine Café following a successful career in Washington, D.C., spanning about two decades.
Cannon, 33, of Harrisonburg, has managed bars and other aspects of several well-established downtown eateries, including the Artful Dodger, Joshua Wilton House and Clementine.
Most recently, Cannon worked at the Local Chop and Grill House.
“At this point in our careers, we’re both really passionate and focused about this,” Cannon said of the duo’s venture, which is a first for both.
FoodBARfood will serve “global comfort food,” according to Minnich, who plans to bring his love of Asian noodles and soups to the menu.
“Every culture has comfort food. We have meatloaf, mashed potatoes. … Soul food in Korea is kimchi. It’s not black-eyed peas,” he said.
FoodBARfood won’t fill its menu with reproduced dishes from other lands, but it will borrow elements and ingredients to create something new, such as a burger with wasabi mousse, for example.
They hope to keep prices for main dishes in the $8 to $12 range.
Minnich and Cannon noted the increasingly diverse and populated downtown dining scene and say they will bring something different to the table.
Their focus will be on attention to detail and making sure every dish and cocktail that goes out is top quality.
That concern factored into the size of the restaurant as well: They wanted a space small enough that they felt they could handle demand while meeting their own standards.
Cannon and Minnich say they found the balance in a partnership with Matchbox Realty, which is converting a former gas company office into foodBARfood.
Cannon estimates the restaurant will seat just less than 80 people.
The space features plenty of natural light and is spread out among three levels.
The ground-floor dining room looks out on Bruce Street through large, south-facing windows, including a glass-paned garage door that will be opened when the weather warms up if a screen can be found to fit.
The second tier opens into the bar area, and the kitchen area makes up the third.
At foodBARfood, there won’t be live music or art exhibits because the focus is on making products, the owners say.
While Minnich has plenty of good things to say about Clementine, he said it was often difficult to just focus on the food with so many other things going on, whether it be disc jockeys, gallery openings or live music.
“All I want to do is cook food and make sure it’s good,” he said.
As for the name, Cannon said it helps to delineate the focus of the restaurant, and Minnich said it’s also an attention-getter.
“I wanted something really simple,” he said. “I didn’t want to have a person’s name in it. … I wanted to have it be strange enough that people say, ‘What’s that?’”
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