The century-old McBride House has undergone another reincarnation and will officially open today with a new name, new managers and a new menu.
The Victorian home on East Main Street sheds its past as a cowboy bar, haunted house and Civil War re-enactment site to become Highland Manor.
Entrepreneur Mick O’Sullivan, who speaks with a thick Dublin brogue, and his partner and chief Chef John Mooney of Chicago, will celebrate their grand opening at 5p.m. Local dignitaries will sample the Southern-flair American cuisine that includes skillet corn bread, fried quail or rib-eye cooked on the bone.
The pair have invested almost $1million in the restaurant, which has a full bar and banquet hall.
They seem undaunted by the staggered economy and recent failure of the now-defunct Captain and the Cowboy restaurant on the site. That restaurant closed in May. Its former owner, Don Green, a Silicon Valley investor and real-estate mogul, had spent $3million in 2005 on the house and grounds.
“Nervous? Us?” Mooney said. “There’s a calculated risk with any restaurant, but we feel that our food will speak for itself.”
O’Sullivan said they have done extensive research and have opened and run successful restaurants in New York City and elsewhere.
“We’re aware of the economy,” O’Sullivan said. “But once we saw this property, we fell in love with it. And we’ve set our prices with this economy in mind.”
The cowboy bar and the bright Key West-themed colors are gone after the pair restored the home to its original look, with muted colors and hardwood floors.
The pair knows the home’s sometimes checkered history, including talk of it being haunted by an early resident.
“We’ve redone everything, soup-to-nuts,” O’Sullivan said.
The tables were made by a woodworker in Zellwood, and a carpenter from Apopka made the wine racks. The new restaurant is at least the fifth incarnation for the tin-roofed home.
It was built in 1903, and for eight decades sat on North Highland Avenue in downtown Apopka. By the 1980s, it was known as the McBride House after Dr. T.E. “Tommy” McBride, one of Apopka’s first doctors and the home’s last resident. It was moved in 1985 under threat of demolition to the site at U.S. Highway 441 and State Road 436.
Clay and Neil Townsend, whose family also owned an Orlando restaurant at the time, bought the structure from the city for $10 and, after spending a couple of million dollars on renovations and additions, opened Townsend’s Plantation in 1987. The property also became the site of an annual Civil War re-enactment.
That restaurant closed in 1997, and the place was opened only occasionally for banquets and as a haunted house on Halloween until Green made his try at the restaurant business.