Ever since the pandemic completely disrupted what it means to dine out, bars and restaurants have been scrambling to reinvent themselves in order to survive the tumult. For at least one local spot, adapting has meant turning to an old standby: burgers.
The folks at de Vere’s Irish Pub and The Snug created a new concept that co-owner Henry de Vere White describes as “our riff on fast food but with cocktails and craft beer.” Dubbed Snug Jr., the operation is run out of the lobby at de Vere’s and features a selection of well-made burgers at drive-thru prices.
“Our version of a Happy Meal, the Ken Griffey Jr. Jr.—which is a burger, fries and a beer or a Mexican Coke or Squirt—is 10 bucks,” says de Vere White. “We figured people may be tight on money these days, so we wanted to offer up some affordable comfort food in these uncertain times.”
Snug Jr.’s format—customers order primarily online and can either dine at a picnic table on the patio or take their food to go—is one answer to getting people to enjoy restaurants again. “It’s our way of offering something to people who aren’t ready to do a full sit-down meal indoors yet but they’re still wanting to go out,” explains de Vere White.
Although Snug Jr.’s menu is meant to be a no-frills affair, chef Wes Nilssen couldn’t seem to help himself from gussying up the burgers with a brioche bun and Snug sauce, which gets its zing from pickle juice and grated onion. “He wanted to create a really good fast-food burger that’s full of flavor, and he did it,” says de Vere White.
In addition to a concise beer and wine list, Snug Jr. also sells pre–portioned cocktails that let customers play bartender. Served in one- and five-serving sizes, the drinks come with ice and all the appropriate garnishes, along with printed instructions on how to assemble the ingredients.
Snug Jr. may have been borne out of necessity, but that doesn’t mean the shift to burgers was unwelcome. “This is the one time that people can pivot and do something different. You don’t get opportunities like that often, so we wanted to embrace that.”