We recently had the chance to catch up with William Barnhardt, owner of Willaby’s Café and Catering in White Stone to talk about what’s new at Willaby’s and some of the unique offerings for customers. Read on to learn more about its restaurant renovations, craft beer offerings and Friday night band line-up.
Chesapeake Bank: Tell us about your recent renovations. It sounds like you’ve had a lot going on!
William Barnhardt, owner of Willaby’s: We were in the middle of White Stone for 18 years, and the place burned down. The only place that was available is where we currently are – a great location over the water, but the building was in rough shape. We’ve been in the new space for four years, but it took us about two years before we fully committed to the new space. We’ve tried to make it a special space for our customers to enjoy with a lot of personality.
Recently, we designed sun sails for the outside of the building to create a shaded area for outdoor dining, we removed the interior lights and designed lights we made from oyster cans, we took the chairs and replaced them with beautiful church pews – solid oak – from a church doing their own renovations. We used crates to create a wine rack on the wall in the bar. We insulated the stairwell and made it into a cooler for our 12 craft beer taps. We took several thousand pennies and made a penny wall on the back side of the bar. The next renovation will just depend on whatever we’re inspired to do next. It’s an ongoing thing – just trying to put personality in the place. A great dining experience isn’t just great food – it is great service and atmosphere. We want the people to enjoy dining here.
CB: We’ve heard you have a love for craft beer. How do you incorporate that into your restaurant?
WB: I’ve been a craft beer fan for 22 years, since a few years after college. It’s great to be able to incorporate some of my passions into the restaurant – like beer and music. My only regret is not doing it sooner as I’ve been enjoying them separately and now I have been enjoying it all together.
We’ve offered craft beer for four years, and the renovations have allowed us to expand on the number of beers we can offer, and it gives us the space to rotate taps and keep things really fresh on the beer front. There are a lot of breweries to choose from all over the state with all of the breweries in Virginia, which makes it fun.
CB: You mentioned music as a passion of yours that you’ve been able to bring into Willaby’s. Tell us about that.
WB: We’ve been having live music for two years – it’s all regional and local musicians, and there’s so much fantastic local music around this area to choose from. It’s an opportunity to meet a lot of interesting people and it’s great to showcase their talent. We take our band lineup very seriously, and I think we have a fantastic lineup.
We have music every Friday from 7-10 p.m. We book musicians about six months out – we probably only have about 10 slots for the rest of the year. Usually we’ll go see bands play in person before they play here. My first concert was in 1980. I’ve been a concert fan even longer than I’ve been a craft beer fan.
CB: Is there anything else happening at Willaby’s that you want to share?
WB: We’re in the process of doing a big menu change for dinner and taking things to another level – that menu will come out sometime in February!