Celebrity Room rises

Celebrity Room rises
Celebrity Room rises
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celebrity roomIn Greek mythology, a phoenix is a bird that is cyclically regenerated or reborn. Some legends say the phoenix obtains new life by arising from the ashes of its predecessor. That’s a concept Chris McCook can definitely relate to as he brings McCook’s Grille back to life.


Chris opened McCook’s Bar and Grill on Lakeside Avenue a few years ago, until business and family circumstances forced him to close down. Still, he never lost his dream to have a place for great food and entertainment.


He found his second chance at what recently was Brookside Grille on RT 1 (only a couple of miles from his original location). The RT 1 location, which has its own phoenix-like history, is better known to most locals as the Celebrity Room (1963 to 1994) which was famous for its food – especially pizzas – and for a room dedicated to the King of rock and roll. For many years local Elvis impersonator Don Wade entertained Richmonders and had quite the following. “Ever since the 9th grade and coming here, this is all I ever wanted to do.”


The new McCook’s opens this week and, according to head chef Jason Clem (previously at several local establishments) the menu will feature freshly prepared seafood, steaks, gourmet sandwiches and smoked meats from their in-house smoker. “All our food will be hand-made with not a lot of frozen or processed items. We’ll be keeping it nice and fresh.”


Jason and Chris

Jason and Chris

To that end, Jason has hired some young culinary talent and hopes to create a destination known for good food at reasonable prices. Currently most entrees are well under $20 and a kid’s menu is available. Jason also plans on creating some unique desserts, as well as specialty cocktails (fast becoming a new “thing” on the RVA culinary scene). While his crew is both newbie and experienced, he says his young chefs have “lots of promise” and have already come up with some new ideas for drinks and other “surprises” including “smoked” desserts.




Main Dining3

Main dining area

One cool throwback to the old Celebrity Room will be pizza nights where the original owner’s son, Alan Serafim, will be resurrecting the old pies. Chris, who grew up going to the Celebrity Room, says his mom insisted that he hang some Elvis photos out of respect for the place’s history.


Sound Install

Installing the sound system

On the entertainment side (and why I’m covering it), Chris has spent a lot of money and effort to create a welcoming venue for bands and their audiences. He built a new stage, installed a custom-built sound system and updated the décor, including a mural featuring the Richmond skyline.


Chris promises to keep the dance space open. There’s a separate bar in the music area and the design of the building allows for shows to go on without intruding on diners in the restaurant level. “When we close the double doors leading to the music venue it really cuts down on sound migration. It’ll be a great place for families and music lovers alike.”



Music venue

His chances for success got an unexpected boost with the recent, sudden closing of Sharkey’s, which was itself a favorite band venue. “Lots of bands have been calling trying to book lost dates. Our phone has been blowing up! I’m sorry that happened to Sharkey’s but we’ll welcome their fans and give them a great experience.”


Current bookings include a wide range of bands (Thursday – Saturday) including The Honky Tonk Experience, Teaze, The Pat Russell Band, Monkey Fist, 161 Down and Rear View Mirror. He’s also booked MoDeBree for every Tuesday night to continue the long standing “Tuesday Night Dance Party” that dates back to the Shenanigan’s days. Wednesdays has karaoke and he’s exploring some Sunday “early” shows.


Appropriately enough, the Blue Rooster and The Five and Dimers will kick off the venue’s opening celebration on St. Patrick’s Day and will be followed Friday with Road Kill Roy. There’s a soft opening Tuesday night with MoDeBree kicking off the music at 8. Doors will open at 6:30 if you want to check out the restaurant or just hang out.





  1. S0 glad to hear this is opening up as a venue with a house system. That could really help groups not having to load in the entire PA.

  2. Good job Billy, can’t wait to see the changes!

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