“This is my community. We wanted to create a destination – not just a Roadie Joe’s, but turn Downtown Salisbury into a destination” – Roadie

Downtown Salisbury has been a point of contention for many, many years, mostly because the city and the community couldn’t seem to get a firm handle on how to harness the economic viability of the area. We won’t belabor the talking points, but it’s safe to say that Downtown Salisbury has been a work in progress, which is why we love the positive momentum we’ve seen in the past few years. A number of key contributors are at play, but a large portion of the positive upswing can be attributed to the locally owned businesses that are fighting to turn Downtown Salisbury into a marketable destination with a varied mix of dining, shopping, arts, and entertainment. Roadie Joe’s Bar and Grill is one of the major players in the game, with ongoing plans to make an even bigger impact with their recent changes, which includes bringing on a seasoned chef that shares in their collective vision.

Admittedly, it had been about a year since we had been inside Roadie Joe’s, which we mostly remembered as a small dive bar with your typical – albeit delicious – bar food. We heard whisperings of some major overhauls, which included bringing Chef Jason Myers (formerly of Skye Bar and Galaxy 66) into the mix. The rumors proved to be true and a few short weeks later, we found ourselves in a Q&A with owner Jeremy Norton (a.k.a Roadie) and Chef Myers. It didn’t take us long to realize that the fit would be a perfect one for Myers, who shares in Norton’s visions for the restaurant and Downtown Salisbury.

“We’ve done A LOT of work in this space,” said Norton as he gave us a tour of the 4,000 square foot restaurant and bar (which also boasts an additional outdoor space for seating up to 250 people). What was once a small, sectioned off bar space has been completely opened up and now features large, welcoming booths for dining. Dining is the optimal word here, as the restaurant is now available for all ages, rather than the 21 and over crowd. “That’s the big thing, we can let kids in now,” said Norton, stressing the family-friendly direction that Roadie Joe’s has recently taken.

Of course, with the expansion of their menu – which now includes entrees rather than just bar bites – came the need for a chef. But not just any chef, the Roadie Joe’s team wanted to find the perfect fit, which happened to be Myers. After a few discussions, Myers was lured to Salisbury to join the team.

“When I came, the food was already good, so it’s been an easy transition,” said Myers, who aims to build on the established Roadie Joe’s favorites while adding farm fresh options to the mix.

“We have a handful of classics – Roadie Joe favorites – that we will be keeping on the menu,” said Norton.

“And I wouldn’t step on that,” added Myers.

Nonetheless, the menu will be a far cry from fries and late night grub. “I like to say that we went from pool bar food to upscale, trendy food,” explained Norton.

The new menu, which will debut next week, will include a heavy emphasis on farm to table. For example, the Baywater Greens salads, which will feature the local hydroponic farm’s unique greens and veggies. “But I’m not trying to scare people here either,” quipped Myers, who knows how to bridge the gap between inventive culinary creations and hometown favorites. Think NY strip steaks, salmon, crab cakes, and pork chops. The kitchen will also remain open all day and night, Monday through Saturday from 11am until 2am. Specials will rotate daily, playing to a wide range of palettes. “We definitely have a variety of options with the new menu,” said Myers.

Myers spent 10 years in the kitchen at Galaxy 66, but has already found a home both at Roadie Joe’s. “Awesome. It’s just been awesome so far,” said Myers, who has received a warm welcome from not only the staff, but from fellow chefs and business owners in Downtown Salisbury. “It’s like a family,” said Norton of the Roadie Joe’s team. “We have a really strong bond here among the staff, and it shows.” Norton was also quick to point out the strong bond that has formed between the local downtown businesses. “The synergy that is downtown right now, it’s just phenomenal. Everyone just wants each other to succeed.”

Norton, who has been a major player in the revitalization of Downtown Salisbury, envisions Downtown Salisbury as a thriving dining destination. ‘The more businesses downtown, the better,’ is the idea, which is why local business owners have joined forces to create successful downtown events and to provide a compelling reason for people to start coming downtown again. For Roadie Joe’s, that includes opening up the restaurant to all ages, revamping the menu, and providing a terrific lineup of entertainment, which includes live music, a comedy night, video game tournaments, and ping pong tournaments, to name a few. Charity nights are also a popular draw. Held on Monday nights, Roadie Joe’s hosts charity nights for just about any charitable organization or need, donating 10 percent of their sales from that entire day. “Monday’s have been a really big success for charities,” said Norton.

New menu, restaurant expansion, Downtown Salisbury revitalization…as if that wasn’t enough to add to the mix, the crew also debuted their food truck earlier this year. Dubbed The Bandwagon, the food truck mostly lives in the parking lot of Headquarters Live, operating as a catering service for the HQ Live events and shows. The Bandwagon will also travel to events, hitting a few earlier this year, with plans to attend even more next year. Norton and Myers agreed that taking The Bandwagon to events and essentially taking their team and the food on the road has been a positive experience for everyone involved. So far the Walking Taco has been the biggest hit, which is essentially a taco tossed into a Doritos bag and adorned with a fork. Festival ingenuity at its finest.

Truth be told, our favorite interviews are the ones where we leave and can’t wait to return once we’re off the clock. Such is the case with Roadie Joe’s. Between the obvious synergy between Myers, Norton and the rest of the staff, the new direction the restaurant has taken, and what will undoubtedly be a phenomenal menu selection, we’re eager to get back for an evening in Downtown Salisbury…and a few of those infamous ‘huggie bombs.’