A taste of fine dining has returned to Conover.
Yet, while interior decor inside the new Conover Tavern has turned from Southwestern "wild" to tasteful elegance, the atmosphere in the downtown restaurant is still relaxed.
"We are trying to offer something to Conover that is new, offer something that will keep people from going all the way to Hickory for a nice night out," said Conover Tavern owner Patty Watts. "We want to create something that people can enjoy here in downtown Conover."
The restaurant Watts created is also something that she hopes appeals to people from all walks of life.
"We want a variety of people to come here — a family with kids after basketball practice, husbands and wives, and single people, too," Watts said. "We want to bring something new to downtown Conover that will attract people from a wide (geographic) radius."
Conover Tavern officially opened for lunch Thursday, and the establishment on First Avenue South will accommodate diners for lunch and dinner throughout the week.
"This is an absolutely wonderful blessing for the citizens and the city," Conover Mayor Lee Moritz Jr. said during a sneak preview of the restaurant Wednesday night. "This will bring excitement to downtown during lunch and after 5 p.m."
Other Conover merchants are also excited about the restaurant's arrival.
"This is the best thing to happen in downtown Conover in a long time," said Michael Allman, who, with his wife Cornelia, own and operate A Jewels near Conover Tavern. "They have really spent a lot of money in here. Now it is really a class act."
Inside, black table clothes top new tables and elegant wooden chairs.
Decor and lighting inside offer a fine dining flair, while an open bar area and large party space upstairs are equally inviting to people seeking a relaxed meal or an upscale night on the town. Flat-screen, high-definition TVs give restaurant-goers a glimpse into sports activity, and while Conover Tavern's sound system provides a great soundtrack to a night out.
Big open windows in the front of the restaurant invites the glimpses of passers-by into the busy dining room, while diners can also see the hustle and bustle of Conover night-life — a night-life that will be more busy with the arrival of the new restaurant.
"I believe our citizens will embrace the restaurant," Mortiz said, adding the business' success will require on "the same combination any successful restaurant needs: great food, great service and value for your money."
Conover Tavern's menu feature typical appetizers with a few surprises — like oyster salad and hand-breaded crab fritters. Fare also includes soups, salads, sandwiches, burgers, pizzas and wraps priced in the $7-$10 range. The menu features plenty of choices for young diners — like chicken tenders, macaroni and cheese and pizza. Entrees such as pecan brown sugar salmon, rib-eye steaks, filets, pastas and more give a hint at the finer side of the menu, with prices ranging in the $15-22 range. And don't forget to end a visit with New York cheesecake or a double decker brownie cake.
"Conover, we are finally here," Watts said. "You now have a tavern you can enjoy."