Marysville has a new hot spot and it hasn't even held a grand opening yet.
The Uptown Steakhouse, 113 W. Fifth St., served its first meal July 11 with executive chef Randy Smith at the helm. A month later, the restaurant has had hundreds of customers, despite not having a sign yet.
When Joe Duke, who owns Joe Duke Insurance, specialty shop Goodies Galore and the restaurant Goodies-N-More, drove by the vacant Old Town Inn last fall, he decided to take action.
Smith's mother worked for Duke and told him her son was a chef at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin. So Duke called the owner of the vacant building, then called Smith and set up a meeting to scope the space for a new restaurant.
On that first visit, Smith had numerous renovation ideas, including changing the bar from a sunken fixture along the wall to a regular floor-level bar in the middle of the restaurant.
"He came in as not only the executive chef but the general contractor. He made all this happen, really," said Duke, who owns the restaurant. "He's so creative and has so many good ideas."
Duke and Smith, who is also the restaurant's director of operations, said a lot of the renovation work was surface improvements.
The historic building had multiple layers of wallpaper in some areas that had absorbed water leaking from a second-floor air conditioner and made a wet, moldy mess.
Smith removed the wallpaper, built a cement bar, redid the bathrooms and floors and added finishing touches.
"It's been quite a little roller coaster. Ninety percent of what was done in here was cosmetic. It was painting and putting up new walls," Duke said.
Overall, the renovations cost between $50,000 and $75,000.
Smith is a 1997 graduate of Marysville High School. In addition to working at Muirfield, he also worked as executive chef for Sushi Rock in the Short North neighborhood of Columbus.
He said it's good to be home.
"My family is from here, so I decided to put some roots where I grew up," Smith said.
Uptown Steakhouse employs seven to 10 people, some of whom are part time.
The menu focuses on steak, but Smith said it also includes chicken, and lobster will be added for a surf-and-turf option. He plans to get most of his beef from Mosier's IGA.
"Let me assure you, he shopped. We checked every distributor. He has connections to get the best value out there. Mosier's (is) hard to beat. We want it to be affordable, too," Duke said.
"It's a pretty cool atmosphere. It's a restaurant; we're not a bar. But if there's an Ohio State game, I hope every one of those seats are filled up. I'm kind of an Ohio State fan. We'll have them on all four TVs," Duke said with a laugh.
"We want to be a restaurant first. We want families coming in."
Uptown Steakhouse is open Monday through Saturday, serving lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and dinner from 5 to 10 p.m.
Smith said he would like to have a grand opening later this month.
"We think there's a lot of good things happening," Duke said.