No Frill Bar & Grill celebrates 30th anniversary

by | Nov 20, 2017 | Other News

Jerry Meltsner arrived on the shores of Norfolk from his hometown of Philadelphia via Los Angeles in 1983. His first stop in town was to run the food service operation at Stanley Peck’s Bessie’s Place, which morphed into the Boat House—a concert and party venue where Harbor Park now stands.

Meltsner’s road to Norfolk and to No Frill Bar & Grill was pretty straightforward, even though it took him from coast to coast. His first introduction to the world of restaurants came when he was 16 and worked as a dishwasher. He knew then it was his calling (not the part about washing dishes!), so when he studied at University of Denver, his degree in business was with a major in Restaurant and Hospitality Management. After graduation, he managed a restaurant connected to the Marriott in Los Angeles. Quickly realizing that the chain-type restaurant world was not for him, Meltsner accepted No Frill Bar & Grthe position with Peck for Bessie’s Place, and the rest, as they say, is history. After all, it’s now hard to imagine Tidewater’s restaurant scene without one of Meltsner’s eateries.

In 1986, Meltsner bought two Norfolk restaurants: City Subs and Dog-n-Burger. Then, just a year later, Meltsner opened No Frill Grill in an old dentist office on Tidewater Drive.

“It was a restaurant with no frills,” says Meltsner, hence the name. “Customers took a number and ordered food. It was the first quick casual concept restaurant… before Panera and all the others.”

There, he expanded the Dog-n-Burger menu, adding such items as pita sandwiches. The restaurant moved to its current Norfolk location at 806 Spotswood Avenue in Ghent in 1997, and a second location opened at 1620 Laskin Road at Hilltop in Virginia Beach in 2005.

Now celebrating its 30th anniversary, No Frill Bar & Grill is listed as #1 out of 596 on Trip Advisor for Norfolk.

“No Frill has found a niche in the family casual category,” says Meltsner. “We’ve always offered a great value with generous portions at very reasonable prices.”

It’s all in the details, according to Meltsner. “We try to pay attention to what customers want: quality food, great service, and not be overpriced. The execution is what makes it work, and all three areas are important. We weigh them all equally.”

The restaurant ownership is now a family affair. Meltsner brought in his nephew Jon Kliner in 1988. Kliner oversees the Norfolk restaurant, while Meltsner oversees the Virginia Beach location. “We have more than 130 employees between the two locations and several who have been with us more than 20 years,” says Kliner.

“Jon is creative,” says Meltsner. “He’s come up with some cutting edge items such as our Funky Chicken Salad. We were the first to put a hot protein on a cold salad.”

In addition to the good food and memories that have emanated from No Frill Bar & Grill, the restaurant has provided tremendous support for local non-profits. In fact, Meltsner has served as a member of the boards of Jewish Family Service of Tidewater, Beth Sholom Village, and on the executive committee during the founding of Freda H. Gordon Hospice and Palliative Care of Tidewater. Plus, No Frill has often held fundraisers for JFS. And, No Frill’s contributions extend beyond the Jewish community.

“No Frill Bar & Grill has been an important supporter of Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters for nearly 20 years,” says Karen Gershman, director of development at CHKD. “They have given more than $77,000 for the kids at CHKD through their annual tradition of donating $1 for every appetizer and dessert sold in the month of February. We are grateful to the whole team at No Frill Bar & Grill for their commitment to the health and well-being of our community’s children.”

Other charities that have benefited over the years include SPCA, ForKids, Virginia Arts Festival, ODU Foundation, Hope House Foundation, Dining Out for Life, and Park Place Schools.

The restaurants have consistently been one of the go-to places for the area’s tourism offices. And, it’s paid off handsomely with mentions in Conde Nast’s Traveler with top 15 cities with the best burgers in America, Top 10 Places to Eat on Yelp, 10 Best Lunch Spots in Virginia, and Leisure Group Travel. No Frill Grill has also received favorable reviews from local publications over the years.

By sticking to the formula of affordably pleasing Tidewater’s palates, delivering good service, and maintaining a strong commitment to the community, it’s a good bet that No Frill Bar & Grill will celebrate many more anniversaries.ill celebrates 30th anniversary

Terri Denison