Two familiar faces in downtown Leesburg have teamed up for a new restaurant venture they hope will complement the well-known beer establishments in the area.
Gordon MacDowell, a downtown property owner and proprietor of MacDowell Custom Kitchens on Harrison Street, has teamed up with Nils Schnibbe, the former manager of Doener Bistro who is also well known for his "Mr. Mom" blog documenting life as a stay-at-home dad and school bus driver, to open MacDowell Brew Kitchen this fall.
The two owners are planning for an October opening, an ideal time of year to open a nanobrewery and barbecue joint, they hope.
For MacDowell, opening his own brewery has long been a dream, but the timing was never right. He purchased the property that his custom kitchen business, adjacent office suites and next-door Doener Bistro sit on in 1994 and entered into a contract with the town to own the Mighty Midget Kitchen structure two years later, which he operated his own restaurant out of for a time. With some of his office space turning over and no tenants lined up to fill it, MacDowell said now was the time to see his dream realized.
Schnibbe said the time was also right for him to come back to the restaurant business after spending the past couple of years at home following the birth of his son.
"I've always loved being in this business," he said. "And Gordon and I complement each other in how we work together." The two have known each other for several years now, after Doener Bistro moved into MacDowell's property at the beginning of 2008.
MacDowell's kitchen showroom will be transformed into the brewery/restaurant space, with seating inside for up to 30 patrons and additional seats in a Key West-style outdoor patio in front of and to the side of the property. MacDowell said his custom kitchen business will continue to run out of an office in the rear of the property, with some displays remaining throughout the restaurant.
A long bar is planned as you enter the Harrison Street premises and MacDowell said he envisions about two to four taps featuring Brew Kitchen brews that will be made on the premises. The restaurant will also feature beers made by microbreweries and other nearby brewers, with an eye towards featuring as many local products as possible, Schnibbe said. The Brew Kitchen will likely not feature any of its own brews until the springtime, as it must undergo a six-month long process to obtain a federal license to brew on the premises.
MacDowell and Schnibbe hope their new venture will fit in nicely in an area they affectionately refer to as the "beer block" or "Beer-muda triangle" with nearby restaurants also known for their tasty beer selection, including Doener Bistro, Fireworks Pizza and Tuscarora Mill Restaurant.
Not to be outdone by their brews though is the menu the two are working on putting together that will feature an assortment of barbecue and other American cuisine. They plan to do a great deal of cooking on a large outdoor grill, hoping to entice restaurant-goers with the barbecue aromas.
"Barbecue and beer are just perfect together," MacDowell said.
Even before the restaurant opens its doors it's already attracted a fan base, thanks in part to the popularity of the two gentlemen in Leesburg and the business world.
"They're totally excited," Schnibbe said of the Brew Kitchen's future customers. "We've been contacted on Facebook, on Twitter; I've gotten calls from New Jersey asking if we're open already." The two have also hosted an open house during August's First Friday and plan to do so again at the next installment, Friday, Sept. 2.
If initial response is any indication, the Brew Kitchen is likely to be a hit when it opens its doors. MacDowell said he is excited to see what it will mean for downtown Leesburg, a place he says he is "totally devoted to."
"It's going to be like Adams Morgan or Clarendon - lots of really good restaurants with a mass of cool, interesting places to go in," he said.
If success does come to the Brew Kitchen, MacDowell said he has his eyes set on expanding the brewery/restaurant space, as he purchased the property adjacent to the future restaurant and is in the midst of going through the legislative review process with the town.
For more information about MacDowell Brew Kitchen, visit www.macdowellbrewkitchen.com, the MacDowell Brew Kitchen Facebook page or follow @BrewKitchen on Twitter. The Brew Kitchen will also be featured in the upcoming issue of Loudoun Magazine, set to hit newsstands in early September.