In Auburn years ago, Adam Simmons’ wife came home from the animal hospital where she worked with a tiny, black fluffball that someone had left there.
That fluffball was a puppy, a black lab mix who became a devoted family member with a loving spirit that long outlived her, so much so that a restaurant in New Bern is named after her. Her name was Morgan. Morgan’s Tavern & Grill inhabits what used to be the New Bern Garage Company. The first restaurant to open there was called Federal Alley.
It went through another few iterations until Simmons, a seasoned restaurant operator, bought it and restored it in a way that harkens to those New Bern Garage Company days. Tavern was used as a part of its name because a tavern was historically the place people would go to catch up, and formulate the big ideas that would grow a community.
Morgan’s Tavern & Grill incorporates three big ideas into its operation. First, they stand behind everything they do, from the food they serve, to the safety of their guests. Morgan’s food is made from the finest ingredients. Steaks are prepared in-house daily, and hamburgers taste so great because they are ground from that fresh steak. Locally sourced ingredients are used as much as possible. The seafood is caught by family companies, and the shrimp is locally-born.
The back-to-back occurrence of Florence, Dorian, and, now COVID-19 have made the environment difficult for many downtown businesses. Morgan’s response to the pandemic was “serious from the start.”
Relying on science and perception, Simmons immediately closed the restaurant and used the time wisely.
“We did a small remodel downstairs. Now every table offers its own completely private dining experience,” he said.
A sink was put on the (dog-friendly) patio to facilitate ease of handwashing for patio customers, and all of the tables have hand sanitizer.
Second, Morgan’s gives back to the community as much as possible. They help with events that support the MERCI clinic, such as MERCI on Middle. Every year, they enjoy hosting the Partners in Education (PIE) fundraiser, Pancakes for PIE.
When Mitchell Hardware’s Greg Smith passed away, they changed the name of the Overstuffed Club, Greg’s favorite sandwich, to Greg’s Club, and 25 cents from the purchase of every Greg’s Club sandwich goes to the Boy Scouts of America in Greg Smith’s honor
Third, Simmons says that a spoiled staff is a happy staff. Morgan’s is proud to have top-notch employees and rewards the staff in thoughtful ways that range from employee awards to Thanksgiving turkeys.
Morgan’s Tavern & Grill fits into the downtown New Bern landscape so well that it seems like it has always been here. And true to the original meaning of “tavern,” it’s where the community’s movers and shakers dine while talking about New Bern’s present and future.
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