By Marianne Weaver
William Landay was the executive chef at CJ Finz in Manassas when he started making plans to open a new restaurant. Rather than striking out on his own, he partnered with some very familiar colleagues: CJ Finz owners Jonathan Kibben and Chris Sellers.
As the three were in discussions about the where and when of launching a new business, the former owners of Clarke’s Grill & Sports Emporium in Manassas Park contacted Landay about taking over their well-established location. He said he knew immediately that it was time to make the move.
“We weren’t planning on doing it as soon as we did,” he said, “but when this opportunity came up, it was too good to pass up. There was already a regular crowd, the restaurant was within walking distance from many houses, and we already had a big following.”
With those pieces in place, the partners set out to define a concept and then build on that to create a name and image. They quickly agreed upon the concept: beer. But not just any beer.
“Everyone is trying to do new stuff with beer,” said Landay. “We [wanted to]do big drafts with as much local beer as we could.”
In fact, take two steps in the door of their new restaurant, and their devotion to local brews is apparent. The walls are covered with signs from local breweries. And a chalkboard lists the ever-changing selections on tap. They usually serve Old Bust Head, BadWolf, Lost Rhino, Ornery, South Street, Devil’s Backbone, and more.
After they agreed upon the craft beer focus, the correct name became obvious. “We liked taproom and something we could abbreviate: The Park Tap Room – PTR,” Landay said.
And the mission statement was secured: The Park Tap Room, an upscale-casual restaurant offering traditional American favorites with a locally inspired touch, celebrates the American love affair with beer, featuring more than 20 brews focused on local Virginia craft.
Beyond the Beer
The owners wanted to create a “Cheers”-like bar, a comfortable neighborhood gathering spot where family and friends can enjoy great food, great spirits and most of all, great memories.
Based on Yelp reviews, it’s working. Visitors comment about their favorite dishes, attentive servers and relaxed atmosphere. In the spring, Manassas Park resident Drue Tucker found a PTR flyer tucked in his door. He and his wife decided to try it. Now they’re weekly regulars.
“They have a decent and broad selection of craft brews and solid pub food with a few stand-out choices,” said Tucker. “Service is what makes it a neighborhood joint, without a doubt. You feel like a regular the moment you walk in the door.”
Tucker’s favorite menu item is the $11 PTR burger, a fresh patty of 80/20 beef topped with provolone cheese and served with beer-battered onion rings and bonfire sauce on the side. “It is usually the menu item that just gets tossed on because folks expect it to be there,” he said. “But PTR knows its way around
the grill. Perfect blend of cuts, cooked meltingly smooth, with your choice of toppings.”
Jim Kirkland, of Manassas Park, has tried pretty much every item on the menu. “They keep updating, but our favorites are the fish tacos, Reuben and the skillet cookie,” he said. “It’s pretty impressive for pub food, and there are always new specials to keep the place interesting.”
Landay drew upon his experience as an executive chef to create the menu. “The menu is a mix,” he said. “It’s a mix of some of the stuff they had at Clarke’s that everyone liked, plus some fancy bar food.”
The most popular item, he said, is the boom boom shrimp, which is 12 crispy fried shrimp tossed in spicy boom boom sauce, for $10.
“We also make our own beer cheese, so the beer cheese and pretzels are popular,” he said. “And our build your own mac and cheese has a following; people drive in just to have that. It’s really good, and you can add bacon, tomatoes, onions and chicken.” The cheese and pretzel combo costs $8, and the mac and cheese starts at $14, with add-ons for a nominal fee.
Manassas resident Angelica Holden discovered PTR about three months ago and has become a regular. “My husband and I are here every Sunday and sometimes throughout the week,” she said. “We love it here. The food is great, the service is great, and everyone who works here treats their patrons like family.”
Usually, she said, they go for the Sunday brunch buffet, which is served from 10:00 a. m. to 2:00 p. m. For $11.99, guests choose from omelet and Belgian waffle stations, assorted salads, ham and asparagus quiche, biscuits and gravy, croissants, bacon, sausage, chicken and biscuit sliders, empanadas with southwest red sauce and rice, corned beef hash, and Old Bay home fries.
“It’s hard to choose my favorite item, but I love the made-to-order omelets and the salmon,” said Holden. “We still haven’t tried everything!”
That’s the kind of review Landay likes to hear. He said his biggest challenge is spreading the word about PTR and getting new visitors in the door. “We’ve been open for two years,” he said. “We are a five-minute drive from Old Town Manassas— it’s not that far. We promise—you’ll like it. Everyone does.”
The Park Tap Room is located at 9103 Andrew Drive, Manassas Park. For more information, visit the website at parktaproom.co
Marianne E. Weaver ([email protected]) is a freelance editor and writer. She earned a BA from the University of Pittsburgh and an M.J from Temple University.