The newest Jack Brown’s Beer & Burger Joint — co-founded in 2009 by childhood BFFs Mike Sabin and Aaron Ludwig — opened on the Beach Road at milepost 8.5 in Kill Devil Hills. The Outer Banks location, which is the first franchise in the company’s history, might never have happened if not for its owner, Brent Hill.
“In 2009, I walked into this little burger and beer joint in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and loved it. The look, the feel, and the food made sense to me,” Hill says. “I leaned over the bar and told Aaron, ‘We should take this to the beach.’”
Hill became a regular Jack Brown’s customer, and five years later, he joined the company (which now boasts 12 locations) as general manager. He was promoted to regional manager and led the company in its expansion to Richmond’s West End, Uptown Greenville and downtown Norfolk.
For two years, Hill scouted locations for an Outer Banks site, and, as luck would have it, the F.O.E. Lodge — formerly Mex-econos, a hardcore/punk club in the late-’80s — had moved into bigger digs on the bypass. Hill quickly set out to make his nearly 10-year-old dream a reality, working throughout the off-season and commuting from his home in Richmond to get the restaurant up and running by Memorial Day.
“KDH is the first franchise,” Hill says. “We’re a pretty small crew working to grow the concept, and I’m happy to be the guinea pig.”
What’s on the menu?
Burgers, burgers and burgers, all made of 100 percent all natural wagyu beef, which is renowned for its high degree of marbling adding an extraordinary depth of buttery flavor, making it the most tender, most succulent and best-tasting beef available.
Jack Brown’s offers seven daily specials — including “The Rickety Cricket,” a burger topped with house-made chili, caramelized Tabasco onions, shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream and Fritos — and eight “Everyday Burgers” that are anything but ordinary. You can, of course, order a plain hamburger or cheeseburger, “but don’t ask for lettuce and tomato because we don’t have it. It’s hard for people to wrap their heads around that, until they take a bite of the burger. It doesn’t need it.”
For vegetarians, there’s the “Flip-Flop Grilled Cheese,” a potato roll flipped with two slices of American cheddar.
The choice of sides includes crinkle-cut French fries, sweet potato fries, and deep fried Oreo with powdered sugar.
Oh, and they have 120 varieties of craft beer.
Hill and his manager, Chaz Blevins, hand-picked the team, looking for the just right mix of personalities to complement the fun-loving vibe of “the Joint.”
“We’re an old-fashioned joint that uses wagyu beef to make a pretty mean burger. Our beer menu is pretty extensive, too, but our focus is making sure you have fun. We use high-quality ingredients, all of our sauces and toppings are house-made. You won’t find any lettuce or tomato, but you can get peanut butter and bacon.”
Hill says the Greg Brady Burger — a burger topped with house-made mac ‘n’ cheese and Martin’s BBQ potato chips — is the most popular, “but our fried Oreo is a close second.”
In addition to the large indoor dining area, there’s a sizeable fenced-in outdoor space with a bar, corn hole and other activities.
“Outside of a few days closed for employee appreciation, we’ll be open all year,” he says. “We want to be good neighbors, too, so look for us to partner with a local groups and restaurants on events to support the community.”
A few months ago, Hill and his wife, Kelsy Zwanzig, sold their home in Richmond and permanently moved to Nags Head with their dog, Birdie. The Outer Banks has always felt like home to them, Hill says, and now that it is home, he plans to make the most of it because they’re living the dream.
“We had a house here, and the stars aligned with the right location on Beach Road. Here we are.”