Get the works at ‘The Works’
by Tom Hardin
It’s a double treat to eat at the recently-opened The Works Bar & Grill on Virginia Street in historic Urbanna. Not only do you get delicious food and quality spirits, but also a nostalgic trip back in time.
The Works is in the same building that once housed the Coca-Cola Bottling Works Plant in Urbanna. The plant was closed in 1963, but memories from the old factory that turned out cases of Coca-Cola and Crass beverages are still vivid to many in the area (see related article and photos on previous page).
The Works, which opened on July 18 of this year, is the accompanying restaurant to the Chesapeake Inn, which is owned by a group of local businessmen. “We were searching for a name for our new restaurant and finally decided to bring the name ‘back home,’ and call it The Works because the building was exactly that—The Coca-Cola Bottling Works,” said managing partner John Milby. “It gave us a good theme to work with.”
The restaurant’s decor is a “throwback” to earlier times. The bar pays homage to the Coca-Cola Bottling days with old Coke bottles and old signs on display. The hallway features old black-and-white photos of the Coca-Cola plant when it was in its heyday.
Step into the game room and you’ll find sports memorabilia on the walls, an antique hand-played shuffleboard game, dart board, big screen TV and more.
The dining room features a tasteful variety of sea creature paintings.
Outside, oyster shells are piled against the front of the building, and a large patio has a nautical theme highlighted by vintage boat signal flags and minnow trap chandeliers.
I had the broiled rockfish stuffed with crabmeat, which consisted of a 1.5-inch thick broiled rockfish steak with a jumbo lump crab cake on top. The seafood was covered with a butter-based “citrus Beurre Blanc” sauce that was fantastic.
Chef Keon Hall had told me earlier he “hung his hat on his crab cakes and fried oysters,” so Bev ordered the crab cakes that were served with “chipotle aioli,” a garlic-citrus sauce with the zesty bite of chipotle. She ranked it among the best crab cakes she ever had, and also high praise for her side dish of truffle mac and cheese.
For dessert we shared the peach cobbler with vanilla ice cream. Again, excellent.
We sat near the entrance to the dining room and, as customers were leaving, I asked them about their meals. I didn’t hear one complaint.
Chef Keon said he came to The Works “because I felt the partners and I had the same vision for a good seafood restaurant in a good seafood town. I like the challenge of being chef of a new restaurant, and I think we found the right combination of fresh, high-quality seafood at affordable prices.”
In addition to a variety of seafood dishes, other menu items include ribeye steak, meatloaf, burgers, club sandwiches, wraps, soups, salads, dips, wings, pizza, desserts, a kids menu and more.
On Sundays The Works offers a brunch with eggs, French toast, waffles, meats, and a variety of omelets and egg benedicts.
Restaurant manager Jessica Fearing said she has received good feedback from customers on Chef Keon’s food and on the performance of her wait staff. “We were busier than I thought we’d be on opening weekend,” she said. “We are still getting equipment in place and getting adjusted, but overall I’m very pleased.”
Jessica pointed out that diners can choose to eat in five different areas—the dining room (45 seats), outside patio (30 seats), bar (28 seats), game room (22 seats), and a private VIP room that seats 8 and is used for special gatherings.
Four of the bar’s five signature cocktails are named for events or things associated with Urbanna, such as August Storm (infamous hurricane of 1933), Boyd’s Favorite Bloody Mary (the old Urbanna tomato cannery), Whiskey Run (tribute to the whiskey runs between Irvington and Urbanna in the 1940s), and The Shorty Long (a salute to the one-time manager of the Urbanna Coca Cola Bottling Works).
One thing that made a big impression on me was that the wait staff, bartenders, Chef Keon and Manager Jessica were very friendly and anxious to please, which made the restaurant a very happy place to be.