By Deb Cornwell
When HD Boyd dines alone, it’s his thinking time. He envisions and plans. The Berkeley County restauranteur, concert promoter, graphic designer, and proprietor of Dub V Pub, a sports bar, on Winchester Avenue in Martinsburg, was having lunch at Habenero when he noticed the building across the street was up for sale. He was contemplating a drive-in diner but was also interested in downtown Martinsburg since he lives there.
He called his real estate agent and quickly realized that the sale price and renovated apartments that came with the property made the building a good investment. “It was an opportunity, and I saw the potential so I thought, ‘Well, I’ll do something else.”
Boyd’s Steakhouse opened on September 2 after six months of renovation to the restaurant portion of the building. The circa 1905 structure was a pool hall at first followed by a Greek confectionary in 1913 and then from the 1920’s-70’s, it was Julius Restaurant followed by The Spring House Restaurant and various things since then. “What I thought was going to be a quick six week makeover took six months,” says Boyd shaking his head. After hand-digging out four layers of old floor to get to the original floor and putting effort into the most minute details of decor including the original woodwork, wallpaper, and a gas fireplace, Boyd realized he needed to renovate the kitchen and basement as well. Boyd recounts, “I did most of the work myself working 12-18 hours a day, seven days a week.”
“I opened an upscale steakhouse because the steaks at Dub V Pub have been voted Best Steaks in the area several times but not everyone wants to go to sports bar. So it was time for me to open a full service restaurant,” says Boyd. With this establishment, Boyd has a food first, bar second philosophy although the bar actually dictated the decor.
“I had a lead on Al Capone’s bar and liquor hutch from his Chicago estate,” says Boyd, “and once I bought that, the decor, and theme fell into place.” Boyd’s Steakhouse is a speakeasy with servers dressed as prohibition style gangsters. “I could put everyone in black pants and white shirts, but you gotta have the tie and suspenders to be true to the theme. We have an old moonshine still and barrel and a 1919 player piano from York, PA that works. It has a humidifier built into it, and it’s been properly tuned with two more tunings to go this year.” The house music and the player piano really set the music for the time period.
For a bit of business advice, Boyd states, “All successful businesses have a theme or brand. Look at Outback as a chain or Myrtle Beach as a destination with its restaurants, they all have a theme that attracts people. I like to design and create things, and I work from a theme. Boyd’s Steakhouse is my vision for an enjoyable upscale restaurant, and the speakeasy theme brings all of that together.”
An easily overlooked, but fascinating, detail in the restaurant is the obsidian used as the tabletops. Obsidian is volcanic glass that occurs naturally when lava cools quickly with minimal crystal growth. Obsidian flows can still be found in Virginia, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina. It resembles jet, a mineraloid made from highly pressurized decaying wood. The jet found in Whitby, England was used to make Queen Victoria’s mourning jewelry. Coincidentally, jet re-gained popularity in the Roaring Twenties. It was very fashionable for women and flappers to wear long strands of jet beads from the neck the waist. The beads were strung like pearls with heavily threaded knots between each bead to keep them evenly spaced and to keep the beads from falling if the thread broke.
Other interesting details personally chosen by Boyd include a coronet bulk head now located over the fireplace. It came from Toscana West, an Italian restaurant and bar in Washington, DC.
For patrons visiting Boyd’s, expect good food, a good staff, and a good atmosphere. “A restaurant must have all three elements,” says Boyd. “If there is a mistake with your meal that is served by a “so so” waitress serving in a “so so” atmosphere, there is nothing to pick up from the screw up. You cannot lack in any of these three elements.
In addition to being an astute businessman, Boyd does have a food background with an hands on experience in his grandfather’s sandwich shop in New Bern, NC. He takes care to buy fresh hamburger from a butcher, and the patties are ground fresh daily. With some input from his manager and chef, Boyd designed a classic steakhouse menu with some twists. Boyd proudly states, “We won most unique chili and third over all in a field of twentysix in our first chili cook off. This was our Maryland crab, Kobe beef chili.
Watch for it on the menu soon!” Examining the menu, one sees Greg Norman Signature Wagyu Steaks that are hormone free, free range, selectively fed, DNA tracked, and marble counted as well as oysters and seafood. Boyd buys “boat scallops” directly from a boat captain for quality and freshness. Enticing appetizers include fried green tomatoes and jalapenos stuffed with goat cheese and wrapped in prosciutto. The great kids menu includes a steak, fried catfish, and gourmet mac n cheese. Desserts include a pistachio gelato and a chocolate souffle.
Boyd’s Steakhouse offers a signature drink, a Caponade that includes Boyd’s own brand of lemonade from HandCrafted Lemonade near Cumberland, MD mixed with First Harvest Moonshine from the Black Draft Distillery in Martinsburg served in an Al Capone shot glass.
Boyd’s Steakhouse is located on Queen Street in Downtown Martinsburg.