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A Local Gathering Place – Expanded and Enhanced, Chris’s Continues to Flourish

08/01/2007 01:23PM ● Published by Anonymous

When Chris’s Open Hearth Steak House first opened its doors, Lyndon Johnson had just ascended to the presidency of the United States, following the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Thornton Rose was the chairman of the local Chamber of Commerce. It’s remarkable for a restaurant to achieve such longevity, but sure enough, Chris’s, as it’s referred to by the regulars, is coming up on its 45th anniversary. In those four and a half decades, the popular dining spot has established itself as the premier dining destination for many Fayettevillians.

Located on Raeford Road, near the intersection of Robeson Street, the restaurant has recently undergone a significant expansion and some upgrades.

“Over the years, we’ve put some lipstick on the place a few times, but this time, we gave her a facelift,” said Greg Kalevas, who along with partner Luke Poulos, owns Chris’s. Luke’s dad, Chris Poulos, was the original owner, and Luke spent his childhood around the restaurant. Kalevas started to work at the restaurant when he was just 18 years old.

“We’ve been wanting to do this for years,” Kalevas says, gesturing to the expanded dining area. The recent departure of an adjacent dry cleaning business opened up the possibility of more space, and Kalevas and Poulos agreed the time was right to enlarge and upgrade their restaurant. The building that houses Chris’s is 90 years old, and some say it’s the location that is a big part of the restaurant’s long-term success. It’s from the nearby established city neighborhoods and professional offices from which many of their regular customers come.

In mid-June, the partners were putting the finishing touches on the newly enhanced restaurant, after having been closed for seventeen days. With careful pre-planning and the services of their contractor, Leighton Blue, they had successfully met their goal of being closed less than three weeks. They chose a time to do the renovation when many of their most loyal clientele are at the beach. Still, some of the regular patrons restlessly awaited the re-opening, especially those who stop by the bar at the end of a business day before heading home.

Mitchell Graham, a Realtor affiliated with Townsend Realty, is one of the regulars at Chris’s.

“The owners are ‘hands on,’” Graham says. “Any time you have the owners of a restaurant doing the cooking, well, that’s part of their success. Greg cuts the meat, Luke cooks, and they work real hard to please their customers.”

Graham also likes the ambience of the bar at Chris’s, even before the renovations that brought soft lighting, dark wood and an English club kind of atmosphere. So, too, does Bill Kirby, a columnist for The Fayetteville Observer.

“It’s just a great place to be with people,” he says, “and you can pick up lots of people stories there.”

As popular as the bar is, one shouldn’t forget that Chris’s is a first-class restaurant, offering the typical American fare one would expect to find. Of course, many beef entrees can be found on the menu, but lamb is also a popular choice, and the owners’ Mediterranean influence makes it memorably good. Fresh seafood also is featured, and the wine list is extensive. Crisp linens cover the tables, and at any given time, one can see local movers and shakers concluding their latest deal, or a couple’s special occasion being celebrated over dinner.

The restaurant offers gift certificates, which have become popular with local professionals. Karen Davenport, also a Realtor with Townsend Realty, likes to give them to clients who are selling their homes and need a night out while they are trying to move.

Jim Long, director of the local American Heart Association office, says he thinks the gift certificates are an especially nice way to say “Thank you” to a friend or client.

“I think it’s a great place,” he says, “it’s where I like to take my wife on special occasions. And the renovation is phenomenal!”

Chris’s Open Hearth Steak House is open Sunday through Thursday from 5 to 10 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays, 5 to 11 p.m., and you’ll find some linger a bit later than that in the bar area. Reservations are recommended for parties of six or more, and you can make them by calling (910) 485-2948.

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