Long-time friends and restaurant veterans Jennifer Brulé, owner/chef of Davidson Ice House which closed last December, and Robert Maynard, CEO of Won Life Holdings and co-founder and CEO of Famous Toastery, have partnered in a new culinary venture they say Davidson has needed.
The pair has turned the old Davidson Ice House space into Hot Mess. The restaurant – serving up burgers, bowls and lobster rolls, along with beer and wine – will be open for lunch and dinner this spring.
This is not the first collaboration for Brulé and Maynard. She has served as the chief culinary officer at Famous Toastery, the North Carolina-based, 26-unit breakfast and lunch brand. Their latest endeavor capitalizes on the culinary duo’s experience. Brulé is a chef, cookbook author, recipe developer and TV personality. Maynard will play to his strengths by focusing on operations.
When Brulé opened Davidson Ice House in 2018 in the town’s former ice house at 416 S. Main Street, it was an instant success. But she promises Hot Mess “will be even bigger and better.”
Brulé is happy to let long-time Ice House devotees know: “All the favorites are still here. The bowls are here. The burgers are here – but they’re even better, and there are more of them.
Gluten-free fried chicken is still here but improved. The fries people love are here, but we have even more ways to enjoy them.” Guests can enjoy fries au naturale or take ‘em & shake ‘em with a seasoning including Street Taco, Dill Pickle, Hot & Spicy and Garlic & Herb.
Hot Mess’ “Smash Burgers” are made into 4-ounce patties. Guests can choose from Certified Angus Beef or Impossible and order a burger with a single, double or triple patty. One of the stand-out burgers is the Mac Daddy – a cheeseburger topped with mac & cheese, bacon and tomato. In addition, guests can build their own burger or customize one in a few ways:
- Make it a mess: Smothered in an indulgent cheese sauce
- Make it brulé: Add a hot burn (a proprietary seasoning blend)
- Make it noisy: Add crunchy, loud house-made potato chips
Brulé, who grew up in Cape Cod, misses a good lobster roll. So, she’s adding them to the menu:
- Clawbster Roll (Classic lobster salad with lettuce)
- Clawbster BLT (Classic lobster salad with Benton’s bacon and tomato)
- Lobster Chowder (served in a bread boule)
- New England Nachos (house-made potato chips topped with lobster salad, cheese sauce, white garlic sauce, tomatoes, green onions and jalapeños)
- Lobster Spread (cheesy and creamy with chunks of lobster)
- Lobster Mac ‘n’ cheese
Bowls – something Davidson Ice House was known for – have a starring role here, too. Toppings – both standard and inventive – are layered atop greens, grains or both. Bowls new to the line-up include:
- SOB (South of the Border): Grilled chicken, black beans, tomatoes, cheddar, corn, caramelized onions, Baja ranch
- Beetnik: Chicken salad, salt-roasted beets, pickled cauliflower, kale slaw, charred broccoli, crunchy mung beans, creamy horseradish
- Greek-ish: Grilled chicken, charred broccoli, sweet potatoes, salt-roasted beets, feta, white garlic and tahini lemon
- Tokyo Teriyaki: grilled chicken, grilled corn, edamame, charred broccoli, cucumbers, spicy teriyaki
“Build-your-own” toppings include proteins (roasted chicken, fried chicken, chicken salad, lobster salad and more); veggies such as sweet potatoes, pickled cauliflower, grilled corn, tomatoes, fresh jalapeños, caramelized onions, banana peppers, avocado; and sauces (honey mustard, spicy green, white garlic, tomato vinaigrette, to name a few).
In addition, chicken sandwiches; chicken tenders; sides such as crispy mushrooms, spice-roasted olives and fried pickles; and soups and salads are on the menu.
Wine and local craft beer will also be offered. Beer will be available in growlers or by the pint. Wine will be served by the glass or bottle.
The name and vibe
About the name, Brulé admits, “I’m a hot mess – but I hope in an endearing way. That’s literally why we chose that name. The restaurant is extremely personal for me. A lot of things are coming right out of my house to decorate the walls.”
The space has undergone extensive renovations. Returning patrons will likely notice the biggest change in the appearance is the bar. “We put in a beautiful sleek bar and created a lounge area with a cool vibe,” Maynard said. “We painted the walls and did extensive tile work. We’ve upgraded everything and made it sexier. In fact, we’re making cheeseburgers sexy.”
Guests can also enjoy the restaurant’s hideaway, the Hot Seat. The private nook features seating for six and is tucked away and available only by reservation.
The partners, both of whom live in Davidson, are excited to introduce a concept they say the town has needed. “We’re bringing something fresh and new to the Davidson restaurant scene,” Maynard said. “We haven’t had a neighborhood burger place. We certainly haven’t had a lobster shack. We’re both those things, and we’re casual and hip, to boot.”