When I walked through the clear glass doors into Beamer’s 25 in downtown Roanoke, I immediately felt I was underdressed. I was wearing a simple pair of blue jeans with a Virginia Tech Hokies t-shirt (I was going to the Hokies football game the next day). But as I looked around the restaurant, I noticed something that set my mind at ease: at one table sat a group of four men wearing suits and ties, but right next to them sat a family wearing jeans, polo shirts on the men, and blouses on the ladies. Everyone was comfortable, the staff was friendly, and the atmosphere amazing. Now I just had to hope the food was as good as the decor.
Beamer’s 25 (357 Salem Avenue SW, Roanoke, Virginia | 540-904-6233 | www.beamers25.com | $10- $30) is a beautiful restaurant located at The Lofts at West Station in downtown Roanoke. The restaurant is a partnership between Virginia-based restauranteur Stephan Parry and local Virginia Tech Football Head Coach Frank Beamer. Stephan Parry enjoys finding unique locations throughout the state and turning them into fantastic restaurants. He partners with locals at each restaurant, helping to keep the chain grounded as a local business. Currently, he has restaurants throughout Virginia: Roanoke, Lynchburg, Charlottesville, Richmond, Midlothian, and Glen Allen.
At Beamer’s 25, Stephan Parry teamed up with Frank Beamer to create a unique gourmet burger restaurant with a focus on friendly atmosphere and nostalgic history. Frank Beamer was born in Mount Airy, North Carolina and grew up in nearby Fancy Gap, Virginia. While attending Carroll County High School in Hillsville, he earned 11 varsity letters while playing football, basketball, and baseball. But after graduating high school, Beamer found his calling as a cornerback on the Virginia Tech football team (he was #25, which is why the restaurant is called Beamer’s 25).
Twenty years later, Beamer would return to Blacksburg as the head coach of the Hokies football team. As the head coach for the last 27 years, he has become a local celebrity and a common name to the region. He is currently the winningest coach in college football and has had the longest tenure. The restaurant is centered around his history both as a college football player and his many successful years as a head coach.
To the locals, Frank Beamer is a bit of a hero. If you haven’t noticed at this point, I consider him a hero as well. I tried to write an objective travel story about the restaurant, sticking just to the facts of the decor, service, and food. But then I realized this restaurant is more than just a place to get food; it is a place to dine in the presence of history. I would imagine most people who dine here are not aware of the history or the connection with Beamer. But for those who know, and especially any true fan of the Hokies football program, this restaurant is a part of the football experience. I came here on a Friday night, the night before a Virginia Tech Hokies football game. I talked with a lot of alumni, current Virginia Tech college students, and even a few faculty members who all said the same thing: this is a regular stop for them, all year long. Just an hour from campus, this is just as important a place to visit as the Duck Pond.
YOU CAN SIT AROUND A FIRE PIT OUTSIDE or grab a seat at one of the many tables and booths inside. You would think you’ve just walked into a high-class, fine dining experience. Well, actually you have. Beamer’s 25 is all about the class, but also just as much about the comfort and affordability. You won’t walk out spending $50 a person (unless you decide to indulge in all 25 craft beers in one night, which I would not recommend). The hardwood floors, fabric covering the ceiling, and industrial-style exposed lightbulbs create a beautiful, unique interior. But you will also feel perfectly comfortable wearing a pair of blue jeans (or shorts in the summer) and having a great night with your friends or co-workers.
The stone patio with fire pit outside would make a beautiful place to enjoy dinner on the warm, clear summer nights. But if sitting outside isn’t your thing, you can enjoy the marble counter top at the bar and five-50″ televisions. The bar is deep, which gives you plenty of room to enjoy a meal or sip on a beer without the bartender bumping into your plate. Unlike some restaurants that focus on getting as many paying customers inside as possible, Beamer’s 25 focuses more on the comfortable with wide aisles and plenty of room to stand and sit, especially at the bar.
The soft lighting inside makes it feel more like sitting at home than a commercial restaurant, lending to that comfortable atmosphere that makes this such a great place to eat. There is no loud music to compete with as you carry on a conversation; in fact, the low chatter of a dozen conversations created its own melody, but at least with this tune you could hear the person next to you without shouting. It is a perfect dining experience, and I haven’t even talked about the food yet.
YOU CAN CHOOSE A GOURMET BURGER from their large menu, or stick with a simple salad. They have enough to keep anyone fed with a large variety of appetizers, salads, sandwiches, burgers, brats & hotdogs, and full entrees. They focus more on the gourmet burgers with 14 to choose from, as well as the option to build your own. They have 7 different salads, including a B.L.T. Salad, Waldorf Salad, and a Classic Caesar. They also have a few sandwiches made with grilled chicken breast, grilled portobello, tuna, or crab cake. They even have full entrees that include a 16oz rib eye steak, Ahi Tuna, or Wasabi salmon.
When I finally had the chance to sit down and order a meal, I asked the same question I always ask, “What is your most popular menu item?” My waitress smiled and suggested I order the Stevo Burger: a burger with a sunny-side-up egg on top with applewood smoked bacon, red onions, cheddar cheese, and mayo. I cringed, as I’m sure you might have just now. I asked her to cook the egg as much as you can cook an egg. But when I took a bite of that burger later, I was very pleasantly surprised. I didn’t know what to expect, but I have to admit the taste of the juicy burger, cheddar cheese, perfectly crisped bacon, and egg on top was actually quite good. Head Chef Michael Wright stopped by my table after I’d had a chance to eat half the burger and told me locals enjoy ordering the Stevo Burger and squishing the egg so it runs down the sides. I will have to try this the next time I visit (and believe me, I will be visiting again).
The burger was one of the best I’ve ever had, but it was more about the bun than the burger itself. The bun was made from Challah bread. It was incredibly soft, thick, and not at all like a typical hamburger bun. It was thick enough to hold the burger together, yet soft enough you could easily bite through it without the need to chew and tear as I’ve had to do at other restaurants. By the time I had eaten just half the burger, I was full. Especially since I had also ordered a Half Order Vidalia Rings. Think of onion rings from a fast food restaurant on steroids. Each of the five rings was as wide as the palm of my hand. The breading lightly covered the Vidalia onions, which were thick and juicy on the inside. These onion rings were so thick it actually took me two bites to get through one (that says a lot for me and my big mouth).
One of the other important features of the restaurant are the 25 crafted-brewed beers they have on tap. Some of the beers are made in-state (like the Switch Monkey I tried from Roanoke), but others come from California, Pennsylvania, and Georgia. They are always fresh on tap and include Belgian styles, pale ales, lagers, wheats, and stouts. These will change from time to time, but you can download a PDF of the current list on their website (look for the downloads just under the top of the menu). Aside from the beers, they also offer a selection of white and red wines. You can order the beer by the glass or flight of four, five, or six, and you can order wine by the glass or bottle.
HERE ARE SOME TIPS to make the best of your trip:
When to Go: Friday and Saturday nights are usually their busiest, so for a first-time visit try a weeknight. They are open seven days a week.
How to Get There: They are located just a few blocks from the heart of downtown, but you can park in a small lot right next to the restaurant that is specifically reserved for their customers.
What to Eat: You have to get the Stevo Burger! Be braver than me, get it with the sunny-side-up egg on top. You won’t be disappointed.
How Much Does it Cost: You’ll spend some money, but you won’t go broke. Expect about $5-10 for an appetizer, $8-10 for a salad, $10 for a burger, and up to $25 for an entree. Beers run about $5-10 a glass, and wines about $6-9 a glass or $20-30 a bottle.
Best Tip for Best Experience: If you can’t make it to Blacksburg for a Hokies football game, spend it here. Pick a night game. Once the game is over, step outside to enjoy the fire pit and craft brewed beers. They stay open til midnight on Saturday nights, so you’ll have plenty of time to hang out with friends and family after the game is over.
IF YOU WANT TO SEE MORE PHOTOS of Roanoke, Virginia, please visit my website at http://jasonbarnette.photoshelter.com/gallery/Roanoke/G0000NQj_._8ORnY/C0000kaoz.gHp75k