GREENVILLE — Owning and operating The Green Harp in Greenville for the past six years, Chef Robert Walsh is now getting ready to do a complete 180.
Walsh is in the final stages of a remodel that will see the former Irish and American comfort food restaurant transformed into a hip, 1980s-influenced burger joint.
Walsh intends to open 180° Burger Bistro at 104 S. Lafayette St. within the coming weeks. He’s currently looking to fill more staff positions at the restaurant prior to opening.
“The original plan was to open on Monday,” Walsh said. “I got my sign guys that I’m waiting on and some equipment that needs to be repaired, so I might have to push it back a little bit. It will be soon. Very soon.”
The reason for the restaurant transformation, Walsh said, was largely because of the coronavirus pandemic and state-ordered shutdowns that occurred over the past year.
“I was doing carry-out in here, running it by myself, doing time slots and just trying to get people fed,” he explained. “I changed the menu probably three or four different times, but breakfast just wasn’t selling. It was lunch and early dinners that was selling. When it came to the sales, it was really the burgers too. The burgers just took off.
“I really just got tired of doing breakfast,” he admitted. “Doing it for six years — or five with COVID — it was good to me and there was always a good breakfast crowd in here, but I decided that I just wanted to do something a little different.”
When coming up with the idea for the 180° Burger Bistro, Walsh partnered with his longtime friend Joe Burkey. Knowing that Walsh wanted an 1980s-influence skateboard theme, Burkey helped see that vision into a reality by designing much of the interior of the new restaurant.
“As soon as we started talking when this place was still The Green Harp, I had an idea of exactly what he (Walsh) wanted,” Burkey said. “He put up a post looking for painters, and I just knew exactly what he wanted to do and the vision he had.
“I’m not a painter,” Burkey noted. “That’s not my gig. I’ve always done art, though. I’ve done tattoos for a long time, and I have my own business where I build custom hotrods, motorcycles and upholstery interiors. That’s what I’ve been doing for the last 20 years.”
When designing the restaurant, Burkey and Walsh purposefully gave each booth a certain theme that has to do with the 1980s or something meaningful to Walsh — whether that be posters of famous movies or singers of the era or the actual Green Harp emblem. Lining the walls of the restaurant are more murals, skateboards and more nostalgic memorabilia.
“You can sit in here for a while and just stare,” Walsh said. “You’ll keep finding something new to look at.”
“The ‘80s are kind of like the new ‘50s, in a way,” Burkey added. “Instead of the whole diner style, the ‘80s retro concept is really what’s in.”
“We’ll also be having some ‘80s movies playing in the background, and the music is to be up-tempo ‘80s music,” Walsh said. “It’s going to be fun.”
As for the menu, Walsh says the new restaurant will focus in on specialty burgers — a trend he’s recently noticed becoming increasingly popular.
“It’s one of those foods like pizza that’s just a staple food, if you do it right,” he noted. “A lot of places don’t do it right. We’re looking to do it right, add a fun concept and just roll with it.”
The menu will also consist of salads, soups, sandwiches and some carry-over items from The Green Harp, such as the Cuban panini and the chicken and waffles dish.
When the restaurant does open, Walsh says he’s eyeing a Monday through Friday schedule to start out with.
“It’s a little different clientele than we had before,” he summarized. “The Sunday brunch crowd was a little bit of the elderly and older crowd. I’m sure there’ll be some surprises for them when they come in the back door for the first time. For me, it was time for a 180 change. I just wanted to change it up. I know that Greenville is ready for it, and I really wanted to tap into that dinner crowd too. People would always tell me that they want to come to eat at the Harp but couldn’t because we’d close at 2 p.m. Now, we’ll be doing 11 a.m. until 7 or 8 p.m.
“We’re just pumped to get people in here, really,” he added. “I’m really proud that he (Burkey) helped me all out with all of this. Growing up together when we did, this allowed us to kind of tap into all our influences.”
180° Burger Bistro
Location: 104 S. Lafayette St. in Greenville
Hours: 11 a.m. until 7 or 8 p.m. (tentative upon opening)
Information: Search for 180° Burger Bistro on Facebook or call (616) 232-2058