Fans fired up by new Halligan location
If you've noticed that fire trucks seem to park frequently in the vicinity of West Broad Village, don't worry.
Henrico firefighters haven't discovered a new firetrap; they've discovered a new favorite restaurant.
On Dec. 2, recently retired firefighter Shawn Gregory opened The Halligan Bar & Grill, which has as its centerpiece an antique firetruck with a full bar wrapped around it.
As it turns out, the 1967 Oren (which now houses kegs and pump panel beer taps) is the original fire truck that Gregory's firefighter father rode when beginning his career at the Highland Springs station more than 40 years ago.
While searching for a fire truck to memorialize in the restaurant, Gregory stumbled on the vehicle after a private collector called him to take a look. "When I saw it was from Henrico [Fire], it sparked my interest," he says. "Then I saw it was from [Station] No. 3."
A 20-year-veteran of the same fire department as his father's, Gregory knew his search was over.
VIPs and heroes
Like its sister location in Shockoe Bottom, the new restaurant gets its name from the Halligan bar, a special tool used in fire and rescue service. And just as in the Shockoe Bottom location, the new restaurant is built around the theme of a museum – a tribute to past and present firefighters of all jurisdictions.
"Guys can come in [from other jurisdictions] and say, 'There's the helmet we donated,'" says Gregory. "Or, 'There's my picture with our crew.' It gives them a sense of ownership."
Among the firefighter memorabilia incorporated into the theme are buckets and firefighter helmets suspended from the ceiling to serve as lamps, and fire hoses wound into the railing of the patio.
During opening week, Gregory said the customer feedback centered around one consistent theme: the unique atmosphere.
"[Patrons] don't feel like they're in a corporate chain restaurant; it has an urban, 'Fan' kind of feel to it," Gregory says, noting that the layout also lends itself to meeting people.
"You can come in not knowing anybody – and know 10 people when you leave," he says.
On top of the fire truck are two VIP tables, equipped with Virginia's first table-top beer taps. For $25 an hour, the tables can be rented for eight to ten people, with all reservation fees benefiting Halligan's Heroes.
As a tribute to his profession, Gregory established the non-profit to benefit firefighters and their families through its support of local charities such as the Old Dominion Professional Firefighters Burn Foundation. In the restaurant's first week of business, the VIP section brought in $300 for Halligan's Heroes.
‘Wouldn't it be great?’
Gregory has also had some fun with the firefighting themes on his menu, which features "Wings of Fire," a "Battalion Burger," "Dalmation" corn dog nuggets, "Hazmat" supersized portions, and "Extinguishers" for dessert.
Among the Hazmat items is the Flatliner Challenge, which includes a three-pound sandwich and a pound of fries and is served free of charge if eaten by a single patron in less then 25 minutes. Most people order the item to share, says Gregory, although two patrons recently attempted a stand-off – and both failed to meet the challenge.
As an added treat, patrons who complete the Flatliner or the restaurant's signature shot challenge trigger the fire truck's siren, announcing their feat to the entire establishment (and more often than not, inspiring appreciative applause and imitation from fellow diners).
With the help of his brother Rick – who closed a restaurant in North Carolina and moved to Richmond to run the downtown location – Gregory hopes to keep growing in 2012. His plans include opening a Virginia Beach location, and equipping additional fire trucks with a mobile smoking pit and Kegerator that can be taken to festivals and special
Although he will miss firefighting, Gregory says he takes pride in being able to bring his business into Henrico – the county that the Varina H.S. grad has long called home.
What's more, Gregory adds, Halligan represents not only the culmination of a dream, but the embodiment of an idea that germinated long ago during his firefighter days.
"I used to be a bartender," says Gregory. "And so many times – especially in July – I was standing on the side of a [fire] truck after a call, and I'd be so hot and thirsty.
"And I would think, 'Wouldn't it be great if beer came out of this truck?"
The Richmond West Breakfast Lions Club (based in western Henrico) recently donated 59 backpacks to the Westover Hills Elementary School on Jahnke Road.
Above, club members display some of the backpacks prior to their distribution. > Read more.
Thanks to a first-place win in The American Protege International Vocal Competition 2014, Glen Allen High School student Matija Tomas will travel to New York City to perform at Carnegie Hall in December.
At the first-place winners recital in Weill Hall, Matija will perform Giacomo Puccini’s opera aria, “Chi il bel sogna di doretta.” She will perform with other vocalists from around the world and have the opportunity to win other awards and scholarships.
Locally, Thomas has performed with Richmond’s renowned Glorious Christmas Nights, Christian Youth Theatre, and WEAG’s Urban Gospel Youth Choir. > Read more.
The John Rolfe YMCA and Gayton Baptist Church have partnered in an effort to bring greater health and wellness opportunities to the community.
Through this partnership, the John Rolfe Y will run Youth Winter Sports programs, including basketball and indoor soccer, in Gayton’s newly renovated $5.5 million outreach center that features a new gymnasium, youth and teen space, social space with café, meeting space and full service commercial kitchen. > Read more.
The Community College Workforce Alliance (CCWA), in partnership with the Virginia Film Office, will offer "Get Your Start in the Film Industry," a two-day seminar designed to prepare workers for film, television and commercial projects in Virginia. The course will be held Oct. 4-5 at the Workforce Development and Conference Center, 1651 Parham Road in Henrico, on the campus of J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College.
The training will be taught by Gary Romolo Fiorelli, an accomplished assistant director for film and television projects, which include the television series Sons of Anarchy and ABC’s current drama Mistresses. > Read more.
The Boathouse restaurant will open at Short Pump Town Center in the spring, its third location in the region.
“People have asked us to come to the West End for years,” said owner Kevin Healy. “When the opportunity arose, we knew had to jump on it.”
The new restaurant will be located in a 5,800-square-foot space under the Hyatt House Hotel at the town center and will include a large outdoor patio. > Read more.
Boka Kantina exceeds its strong food truck reputation
Already a fan of Boka fare from outdoor events with the Tako Truck, I was delighted to learn of the new restaurant, and eager to see if its reputation held up after putting down brick-and-mortar roots.
Would the food lose its zest if I wasn’t enjoying it in the great outdoors? Would it seem pedestrian served from an ordinary kitchen instead of a truck?
Would the tacos be less satisfying as an antidote to normal lunch hunger – instead of being ingested to stave off desperate hunger after a long afternoon of crowds, sun, and tedious lines? > Read more.
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Sep. 18, 2014Click here to read the print edition.
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