Blue Ridge Burger and 1889 Bistro explore new, affordable retail-experience 

Photo of neighboring restaurants, Blue Ridge Burger and 1889 Bistro. Photo by Logan King.

WCU’s newest restaurants Blue Ridge Burger and 1889 Bistro, located in Brown Hall, accept any way you pay, including meal swipes, and are working to perfect operations.  

Blue Ridge Burger and 1889 Bistro were developed by Jeffrey Marshall, resident district manager, and Robert Walker, director of auxiliary services. Blue Ridge Burger started serving students in August 2022 and 1889 Bistro will open when enough staff is hired, according to Marshall. 

 The restaurants offer meals consisting of an entrée, side, drink, and a cookie. Acceptable forms of payment include declining balance, cash, credit/debit and, to the surprise of many, meal swipes. 

Blue Ridge Burger and 1889 Bistro are the first restaurants not part of the dining halls to accept meal swipes as payment. 

The developers wanted students to have a retail-like experience at an affordable price.  

“We wanted to give students who may not have DB another viable option to have something that feels like retail but isn’t something you have to pay for with your own money because you already bought a meal plan,” said Walker.  

Walker explained incorporating a meal plan couldn’t be accomplished until costs and other logistics were figured out. 

The price for a meal at Blue Ridge Burger and 1889 Bistro is $9.75, the same as the dining halls, Catamount Café and The Lodge at Brown. According to Walker, Blue Ridge Burger serves higher-costing and higher-quality food than the dining halls, so a student can only get one meal as opposed to a buffet style. 

Blue Ridge Burger has eight entrees for many preferences. The menu offers three kinds of burgers including a vegan patty, a patty melt, a fish sandwich, a Philly steak, and a hot dog. The sides include hand-cut fries, house-fried potato chips, and house-made slaw. A gluten-free bun can be requested. 

Everything is made from scratch and not frozen. According to Marshall, Blue Ridge Burger uses fresh ingredients and a special hamburger blend of chuck and brisket provided by Cheney Brothers, Inc., a food distributor.  

Blue Ridge Burger has seven employees. When 1889 Bistro opens it will have its own staff. 

Blue Ridge Burger and 1889 Bistro are new concepts, so the developers and dining services are working out issues and looking to improve services as they operate. Marshall wants to set consistent standards like a chain restaurant.  

An inconsistency the developers are aware of is fries sometimes being dumped into the bag or in a carton. Marshall said this was important to consider and improve because the consumer may not be getting the same amount of fries every time.  

Marshall appreciates students’ patience with long ordering times.  

“Sometimes it’s a good 35 to 45-minute wait to get their burger because so many people are ordering it,” said Marshall, “they’ll wait because they know they’re getting a really good sandwich out of it.”  

Walker explained long waits are the cost of fresh food. 

 “Everything is made from scratch, so wait times are inevitable at certain times of the day,” said Walker. “We’re working on ways to better communicate wait times so students know how long it may take to get their order.” 

According to Walker, Blue Ridge Burger serves 600-700 students per day via meal swipe. “That’s really unusual for a house-designed concept, and we’re very proud of it,” said Walker.  

The concepts for Blue Ridge Burger and 1889 Bistro were first considered in spring 2022. Walker named 1889 Bistro after the year WCU was founded, and Blue Ridge Burger was designed to promote a lodge theme at Brown Hall. 

The Blue Ridge Burger hours are 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. and it is open even when Brown Dining Hall is closed.