David Blair knows there is no such thing, really, of a gastro-pubby restaurant, but that's how he likes to think of The Garage Eatery & Pub, the restaurant he's building in the 1950s era gas station at the corner of East University Boulevard and North Fourth Avenue.
The Garage replaces Blair's initial plans for the 2,000-square-foot building, which was to bring in a franchise of Florida-based Jimmy Hula's taco and burger shack. He and his partner in that deal parted company, prompting Blair to hire a consultant and rethink his restaurant ambitions for the former gas station.
The Garage concept — burgers, seven or eight regional and local craft brews on tap, salads and sandwiches — fits the space, which was home from the 1950s to '70s to Fourth Avenue Tire and Service Station. Blair leased the corner building more than a year ago and started the initial interior demolition work in July.
They converted the back bay — which was added to the garage in the 1970s — into a small kitchen and stripped and finished the concrete floors. Most of the space is devoted to the dining room, which can seat about 50. An outside patio can seat another 20.
With the exception of some landscaping, the building's exterior will remain largely as is, with visible rust on the metal eaves and the paint stripped away to reveal the original grayish brick walls. Glass garage doors will replace the old metal ones.
Lunch service will be at the counter; diners place an order and pay, then pick up their food at the counter. Dinner will have table service.
On Thursday afternoon, as a crew of workers busied themselves unloading and installing kitchen equipment and working on the building's exterior, a couple from the neighborhood popped into The Garage. Blair invited them in and ticked off the building's history, whose last chapter ended with the closing in 2009 of the Fourth Avenue Service Station.
The couple was among a handful of folks poking their heads in on the work in the past couple weeks.
"It's a proud thing to do something on a very public corner," said Blair, who envisions The Garage being a place where neighbors will come for a quick lunch, a family dinner or a beer with buddies.
"When we think of Fourth Avenue, the south end is for the college kids and the north side is for the neighborhoods," he said.