Gallagher’s Restaurant: Old school charm with a twist

Pictured are brothers James and Jered Gallagher at the first floor bar of Gallagher’s Restaurant.

Two years after closing their doors and with extensive renovations finally finishing up, the Gallaghers will soon be reopening their downtown Waterloo restaurant.

Brothers Jered and James said they currently expect to open sometime soon, with Jan. 17 a likely opening date as they get through training for their staff.

The changes are plentiful, with the formerly first floor bar moved up to the third floor, extensive dining space on the second floor and a new central bar on the first floor.

Jered described the overall aesthetic of the restaurant as “old school charm with a new school twist,” with the building’s old brick blended with sleek new furniture, lighting and other features.

The brothers noted the elegance of the establishment, though they also emphasized that they want customers to feel welcome and comfortable.

“It’s just got an elevated offer,” Jered said. “The vibe is always gonna still have that downtown brick charm. We had a private party here on the third floor and it was like we never closed … As far as the vibe, I mean, the vibe is more elegant.”

One Gallagher’s staple that won’t be changing is the Sunday fried chicken. The brothers noted that they’ll be using the same recipe that helped make the restaurant so popular to begin with.

Along with other changes to the menu, the Sunday offerings will see some additions for those uninterested in chicken, with Jered saying that Southern staples like meatloaf and fried catfish could end up as additional offerings.

These changes started with the restaurant’s closing at the start of 2020, with the brothers wanting to take some time to address issues and generally improve various aspects of the building.

The changes that they had in mind when they started quickly spiraled into even more. As James put it, “Every time we turned a corner we saw some new issue, problem or idea that we had.”

The brother’s long hiatus was also influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic, with Jered painting it as another reason to keep the restaurant closed and consider what they want to do with it.

“It gave an opportunity that would never ever have presented itself otherwise, ever,” Jered said. “We could never dream of being closed here for as long as we were otherwise, but after being shut down during COVID for months and months at a time, it definitely presented itself. The path kinda revealed itself.”

This most recent two year project is the second big renovation that the building has seen in recent history as the Gallaghers put plenty of work into the place when it first opened back in the early 2000s.

“My parents had already been moved into town for a few years, and my dad had an opportunity to rehab this building that they were discussing tearing down,” James said. “So he bought it and we started to renovate and turn it into the restaurant that it was that existed from 2004 until when we closed almost exactly 2 years ago.”

With plenty of years after the original big renovation, the brothers are hoping to make this project the final big change that the two of them make to the building.

The plan that they expressed is for the restaurant as it is now to last into the distant future, with any changes that their kids might want to make left to them.

“The community has always been exceptionally supportive, so supportive, in fact, that it was time for us to really go through this building and tighten it up, button up any problems so that it would continue to be a restaurant for many more years to come,” James said.

While the restaurant is expected to open its doors within the next few weeks, some renovations will be continuing for some time.

The brothers are currently planning to change the exterior of the building extensively with expanded seating and atmosphere that they hope will have customers feeling like they’ve entered the restaurant before they’ve even stepped through the doors.

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Andrew Unverferth

HTC web