The University of Georgia’s legendary running back will soon help open Herschel’s Famous 34 Pub & Grill at 320 E. Clayton St. in downtown.
The restaurant will be playing host to a three-day kickoff in late January “before the Super Bowl,” said George Fiorile, vice president of DD Leisure Management Corp. out of Dover, Del., which owns the restaurant.
“We are excited to open the first Herschel’s Famous 34 Pub & Grill in Athens where I have many fond memories of my time at the University of Georgia,” Walker said Wednesday in a statement.
Walker, a Georgia native, helped the Bulldogs win the national college football championship in his first year as a running back for UGA in 1980. He went on to win the Heisman Trophy in 1982 and spend more than a decade in the National Football League. Walker’s athletic and personal accomplishments will be displayed on the windows and walls of the 110-seat restaurant, according to the release.
The restaurant will feature a half dozen 60-inch TVs, complimentary wireless Internet and table-side tablets featuring messages from Walker and highlights of his football, bobsledding and martial arts experiences, according to a news release. The menu will run the gamut, with steaks, burgers, signature sandwiches, oysters, crab legs, shrimp, healthy selections and salads made fresh with local produce, according to the release. The food will come from Renaissance Man Food Services, Walker’s Savannah-based company.
Among the signature items will be Doritos-crusted barbecue wings, Fiorile said.
It will also feature 34 craft beers, creating an opportunity for an “exciting adventure in terms of pairing food with these excellent craft brews,” Fiorile said.
Mark Kooyman, whose Atlanta-based firm Experience Discovery is handling marketing for the restaurant, noted the timing of the restaurant’s opening, with the Bulldogs poised to recreate the 1980 season if the team beats Alabama for the SEC Championship on Saturday and does the same to Notre Dame for a national title. It is also slated to open near the 30th anniversary of Walker winning the Heisman Trophy.
“The timing is so perfect,” Kooyman said in an interview.
Fiorile said having the restaurant open in time for a possible Bulldogs-Fighting Irish rematch would have been great, but they didn’t want to rush the opening.
“Our schedule, the way we looked at it, we wanted to do a quality job,” he said. “We wanted to do it right.”
Fiorile said the idea came up some years back when Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport was seeking new restaurants. Fiorile worked with Walker to find the right spot for the first brick-and-mortar location and Athens became an obvious choice.
“(Walker) has a fondness and affection for this town, so this is where he wanted to get started,” Fiorile said. “... We hope this will be the first of many”
The shop will also sell autographed menus, football memorabilia and apparel. Walker will also appear at the grand opening and make periodic visits, according to the release.