Photo by Jay Paul
Mike Derks and Jeremy Dutra
Blood is the first thing you see when you walk into GWARbar in Jackson Ward. It’s splattered in the doorway and across the floor leading to the kitchen, as if a body had been dragged to where chef Jeremy Dutra is standing right now, his hands dripping.
The blood on the floor is fake, but the stuff on Dutra’s hands is 100-percent real. The chef de cuisine is deftly slicing through several large chunks of raw meat, preparing for the evening’s dinner service. GWARbar’s menu is heavy on the meat — no surprise coming from a chef who has “pork rind” tattooed on his knuckles, or from a famously barbaric metal band.
Dutra spent roughly six months developing the menu with GWAR guitarist Mike Derks, aka Balsac the Jaws of Death, who is also the restaurant-bar’s co-owner and executive chef. Like the blood-spattered restaurant’s décor and GWAR’s grotesque, fluid-spewing onstage antics, the menu is filled with gross-out options like Jizmak ’n’ Cheese, Scumdogs and Grilled Pustulus, their take on a classic grilled cheese sandwich. And though the names are indisputably gimmicky, the food itself is not. “The concept is to be gourmet junk food, but it isn’t really that,” Dutra says.
One of the most popular menu items, the Chicken McDuckets, are made from duck confit, chicken thighs, smoked cheese and truffles. “I know a lot of people love the nuggets at McDonalds, so I decided to try it here,” Dutra says of developing the dish. “That’s how a lot of the dishes started out — food that we grew up on.”
So don’t be sad when you’re not served up a steaming plate of something unsavory at GWARbar. Dutra is making sure the food looks as good as it tastes — at least for now. “Would I like to disgust people? Yes,” he says, “but I have to earn their trust first.”
And while some GWAR diehards may be disappointed that their “Hail Seitan” is actually a spicy vegan barbecue dish, the vast majority of diners are pleasantly surprised at just how tasty the food is.
Like the band itself, GWARbar is an anomaly in the restaurant world, and it’s almost impossible to imagine it succeeding anywhere but Richmond. Which, when it comes down to it, is one of the coolest things about both the city and the restaurant.