Photos by AP Imagery
For over 50 years, Briarpatch Restaurant has been a landmark for the community. In August of 2021, Mike Courtney, Grady Harreld and Joel White purchased the restaurant knowing they would have to renovate the interior but also wanting to keep the iconic location and offerings of the restaurant.
Previous owner and operator Pat Buntin and his wife Kathy purchased the restaurant in 1987 from the 10-restaurant Briarpatch franchise. As evidence of how the Owensboro location has stood the test of time, all of the other Briarpatch restaurants have since closed.
When the Buntins were looking to sell, Harreld said that Buntin kept asking Courtney to consider purchasing the restaurant. Courtney began his food industry career working at the Briarpatch as a grill cook and manager for over 12 years before opening the two Ritzy’s locations in Owensboro.
Courtney’s love for this restaurant is what helped with deciding to buy it.
“We remember the restaurant from its old days,” Harreld said. “It is an Owensboro institution, and many have had prom dinners and dates there. People tell me this.”
Known for its steaks and salad bar, the owners have invested in a new line of higher-quality steaks from their vendor, which has resulted in many positive comments.
“We were able to have a steak tasting, and this resulted in the better-quality steaks,” Harreld said.
The salad bar, which sees activity at lunch and dinner, is a known staple, and Harreld said they do not plan to change any of it because “it works.”
“We knew the restaurant needed a lot of work, including cleaning and changing the wallpaper, but we want to keep some the same and even bring back the pub,” Harreld said.
The northside pub used to be a bar that patrons frequented regularly, but in the past couple of decades, it has been underutilized other than to pour drinks.
The bar expansion will also include a patio with a railing and a new sound system, which Harreld believes will be an asset for three-season enjoyment and can also be used when people are waiting for a table.
The cramped waiting area is being enlarged and includes new benches, flooring and updated lighting. Harreld said that not everything will change – the plaques for those who have eaten large amounts of beef and the fish tank will remain in the waiting area.
The owners hope to stay open during the remodel, because they want their core customers to still be able to come in for their favorite meal. They have already changed the area where customers had to step down to dine, resulting in the entire restaurant being one level. They also plan to change the entry and host stand to offer a more updated area.
Most of the staff from the previous owner has stayed, and this speaks to the quality of the service-oriented restaurant.
Harreld said this is the first phase of the remodel, and they already have plans for phase two, which includes new hood vents over the grill area as a focal point from the lobby.
“We are excited for the pub to open and see how that is received,” Harreld said.