GLENS FALLS — In about two months, visitors walking into Downtown Social in Glens Falls will be met with a food truck with window service offering items like trendy tacos, specialty grilled cheese sandwiches, ice cream and shakes.
Well, it’s not a real truck, but a mural of a food truck with a real window strategically placed in the mock truck’s service window to allow walk-up service for quick items.
“We’re going to have fun with it,” said wide-eyed owner Craig Merrell, talking about his latest vision for the now year-old business.
Merrell also recently unveiled a new menu, new chef Brian Bowden and new plans for almost nightly entertainment and specials including everything from kids-eat-free Tuesdays and the popular DJ-fueled dance parties on Saturdays to country barbecue and line dancing on Wednesdays.
In addition, game night Thursdays will feature cornhole, Pictionary Air, karaoke and “cheap beer.”
He will also be starting a cardless rewards club where points can be used for food and merchandise like T-shirts.
And the already started build-your-own bloody mary bar and $1 oysters on Saturday afternoons have been popular, he said.
It’s a bit of a departure from what Merrell, who also owns the nearby Downtown City Tavern, envisioned when he opened a year ago.
Back then, he unveiled chef Jonathan Studley, plans for morning specialty coffees, New York City-style deli lunches, fine dining in the evening and a lot of live entertainment. And the Bourbon Room, the former Wallabee’s Jazz Bar, would offer a speakeasy setting, fine spirits and a different menu.
The morning coffee plans were scrapped and the short-lived deli is now the Füd Bar, which currently opens after the main kitchen closes, but will soon serve double duty with the service window. Though the deli is no more, the Social is now serving lunch starting at 11:30.
The Bourbon Room is currently used exclusively for parties, but will return to being open to the public in the fall with a new menu and a renewed speakeasy mystique, he said.
And while live entertainment is still a feature, it’ll be limited to primarily acoustic acts on Saturday evenings before the popular “DJ Stantastic” dance parties, complete with accompanying music video on the big screens.
“So many people have live music now, it’s not special anymore,” Merrell said, explaining the change. “This is the nightlife in Glens Falls.”
Merrell last week said patrons really dictated the changes, adding that the “key is to remain flexible.”
“We learned that people lean toward value. Not cheap, but value. Our new menu now has broader appeal,” he said, adding that Bowden is a regionally renowned chef, having helped launch several popular restaurants in Saratoga including 15 Church, Fish at 30 Lake and R&R Kitchen + Bar.
Last week, Michelle and John Roberts of Queensbury were eating dinner with their two girls, Sophia, 11, and Ella, 9, and said they come to Downtown Social basically every Wednesday.
“This is like their favorite place,” Michelle said of the girls, who both said they love the food, but Ella also said she’s a fan of the funny videos playing on the huge TV screens. “This brings us downtown. We never came down that much before.”
They spoke fondly of the menu, with Sophia saying she loves the fish and chips and Ella naming the chicken wings as her favorite.
Though Robert lamented the loss of chili and steamers on the new menu, the family agreed it is much broader than the former one, offering everything from wings and tacos to poke tuna bowls and lamb.
Food sales have increased about 40% since the change, General Manager Dan Biddiscombe said.
Server Shay Purcell, who has been there since it opened, said the new menu has been a great change.
“It’s a lot more accommodating to the tastes of the locals,” she said, while adding the Brussels sprouts chips appetizer from the old menu remains a huge seller. “And people are loving the tuna poke bowl.”
Merrell said the new menu has a lot of “trendy, cravable” foods and the trend in dining is “grazing,” which this menu better suits.
He is reviewing designs from artists for the food truck mural, which should get underway soon. He said he has a vision for it, but wanted local artists to show him their thoughts.