What was old is new at the latest Culver Avenue bar and restaurant in East Utica.
Old School Bar & Grill has new owners at Brandon Bertrand and Jeff Reilly, an updated menu and the space was remodeled ahead of its opening on Friday May 7th.
The menu will retain some classic local dishes, but will also contain new and fresh elements in burgers and specialty sandwiches, Bertrand said. The previous menu was geared towards Italian staples.
The emphasis will be on authentic food, with homemade sauce and hand-breaded chicken.
“We wanted something new and fresh for people,” he said. “And I think we can deliver that with what we do with the menu.”
A wall separating the dining area has been removed to create better sight lines, with five TVs behind the bar.
“We’re going for that sports bar feel,” Bertrand said. “We just want it to be open. We want everyone to see everything and what is going on.
Reilly, from Utica, said the East Side remains focused on family and loyal customers to local offerings. He was a regular customer of the bar and restaurant under his former ownership.
“The area needed a place like this to go where, like Brandon said, it’s a neighborhood bar and a grill vibe,” Reilly said. “You walk in and people know your name.”
Acquisition and opening
Although Bertrand and Reilly have been friends for a decade, they only became business partners last year. Both have experience in the bar and restaurant scene, as well as an interest in owning their own business.
An opportunity finally presented itself at a New Years rally at Reilly’s.
“We had a conversation with the previous owner and there was just one offer on the table that we couldn’t really refuse,” said Bertrand. “So we went with… We did it the next day.”
In the months that followed, the couple, with the help of family and friends, prepared the restaurant and bar for opening day. They created a plan for minor renovations, and Bertrand went to work on the menu.
“We kind of collaborated to stay true to the classic East Utica stuff, but also to bring in the new school flair,” said Reilly.
After investing a lot of capital in the restaurant, Bertrand and Reilly are ready to open. There has been a surge of support from family and friends after a smooth opening, as locals look forward to the grand opening, Reilly said.
Opening the business against the backdrop of easing restrictions on coronaviruses, there has been no real downside to exiting the pandemic, Bertrand said.
“I think this is a real opportunity to come out of the pandemic,” he said. “People are ready to go out and have fun again.”
With a positive response as the grand opening approaches, Bertrand and Reilly can’t wait to get started with the new Old School Bar & Grill.
“We just want to give people what they want,” Reilly said. “Good quality food.”
Steve Howe is the town reporter for the Observer-Dispatch. For unlimited access to his stories, please subscribe or activate your digital account today. Email Steve Howe at [email protected]