Blue 42's Burger Bar and Wingery co-owner Chuck Whisnant sits at one of the tables in his new restaurant in Morganton.

Most sports fans won’t ever get to eat dinner with Michael Jordan or bask in the spotlight with their favorite college team.

But Morganton’s newest restaurant can get them pretty close.

Slated to open in early February, Blue 42’s Burger Bar and Wingery will offer those food favorites and more in a space adorned by a Fathead of the six-time NBA champion, lampshades of Appalachian State, NC State, Clemson and more, and a swath of other memorabilia and big-screen TVs to make sports fans and sports families feel right at home.

“Our focus when we started doing this was for families,” said Gretchen Whisnant, co-owner of Blue 42’s with her husband, Chuck. “We love sports, and our kids play all kinds of sports. We want it to be family. All these families around here seem to do sports, and you don’t have time to go home and eat.

“But you don’t want to eat fast food all the time, so we want families to be able to come in here.”

Blue 42’s is located in the former pizzeria building at 831 W. Union St. It’s a spot that the Whisnants think will work well both for their business and to support their theme in close proximity to Shuey Park, the Catawba River Soccer Complex and Freedom High School.

“We’re right here at these complexes where we’re getting tournaments from out of town, and they’re coming to visit,” Gretchen said. “I think it’ll be a prime location for them to stop in and grab a meal in between games or when they finish up with their kids.”

At the center of the menu will be big, custom-made, hand-pattied, fresh burgers.

In the first quarter, fans can choose a single or double of beef, bison or bean. The second quarter is the cook temperature. In the third quarter, fans will choose from seven cheeses. And the fourth quarter calls for a choice of seven standard fixings. But this game might go to overtime, where burger builders can add on all their favorite extras.

“We have a build-your-own-burger menu,” Chuck said. “It’ll be locally, North Carolina-sourced Angus beef. We’ve got bison meat that’s coming out of Asheville. So, you get to build your own burger or we’ve got house-specialty-topping burgers — for example, a hot-bacon-jam burger.

“We’ll have hand-cut fries, hand-cut pub chips, house-made chili and slaw.”

Not only will Blue 42’s fans leaved stuffed, but their burgers can be stuffed as well. Burgers packed full of combinations like steak and Swiss, barbecue gouda, bacon cheddar and wild blue mushroom will be up for grabs.

Some of the house-specialty burgers are pretty special, too. The “PBring It” comes topped with peanut butter, bacon jalapeno jelly, bacon and American cheese, while the “Yolksef” is accompanied by a choice of cheese, applewood bacon and an over-easy fried egg.

On a keto diet? Blue 42’s will serve any of the above burgers sliced up in a burger bowl without the bun.

As for wings, those will come in 11 sauces or four dry-rub flavors. Philly cheesesteaks, chicken tenders, hot dogs, appetizers, salads, sides and kids’ selections help complete a food menu that Chuck thinks will come in at a better price and quality than his competition and big chains.

The bar will feature local craft and domestic beers on eight taps and in bottles, along with wines picked by Gretchen.

The Blue 42’s theme of quality burgers and wings — made with what the Whisnants describe as premium products, including beef sourced from within 250 miles (and possibly even from Burke County farmers) and thinly sliced rib-eye meat in the Philly sandwiches — in a family-friendly hometown setting — Gretchen is from Glen Alpine and Chuck grew up in Drexel — is a longtime dream of Chuck’s come to fruition.

“Chuck’s wanted to do this for probably 20 years,” Gretchen said. “He used to cook at his grandmother’s restaurant when he was young, and he just has a big love for food. He’s catered some on the side for friends and family over the years. He just loves having people over and cooking and trying new things. This came about, and it was the right location at the right time. It was good to go.

“We’ve both lived here our whole lives. We want to bring something to Burke County and Morganton that’s positive and help continue to build the community. I think it’s kind of outside the box from what Morganton has so far. We drive an hour to eat stuff like this.”

Joining Chuck’s college and professional sports memorabilia collection will be jerseys from all four Burke County high schools displayed in shadow boxes.

Blue 42’s hopes to give back to the community’s sports by hosting teams and holding fundraisers.

“There’s some elementary recreation leagues around here that can’t even afford to repair their scoreboards,” Chuck said. “We want to give back a little bit.”

Blue 42’s will offer online ordering that will have meals ready for pickup in 15 to 20 minutes, something Chuck described as his alternative to drive-thrus. The eatery will hire up to 20 staff members. And though the days aren’t set, the restaurant’s planned lunch and dinner hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekends.

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Justin Epley can be reached at jepley@morganton.com or 828-432-8943.

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