0202 Judge's

Pictured is the Judge's Riverside BBQ restaurant building at 128 Greenlee Ford Road along the Catawba River in Morganton.

One of Morganton’s most popular restaurants is preparing to start fresh.

After previously beginning plans to remodel the existing building, Judge’s Riverside BBQ has opted to instead build a new structure on the current location at 128 Greenlee Ford Road along the Catawba River.

The restaurant will stay open until around October, and that’s when the process to tear down the current building and construct a new one will begin, said Brian Miller, the restaurant’s manager.

“We were originally supposed to start (remodeling) in January,” Miller said. “We were going to close down January, February and March. Then, after we got with our contractors, we decided not to remodel. We decided to just build a new one.

“So, the goal is to tear it down around October and build a new restaurant.”

Miller said it was determined that the restaurant, owned by Fulenwider Enterprises, would have better cost-effectiveness to build anew rather than refurbish. A timeline for the rebuild has not been established yet because the restaurant is just scratching the surface of the planning process.

The new building will be a big plus for both Judge’s customers and the staff, Miller said.

“I think it will be amazing,” Miller said. “To be honest, I think we have the best location in Burke County for a restaurant, by far. With the new design, more outdoor seating and the new layout of the restaurant, we’re just now getting ready to start drawing it out with architects.

“We’re really in the beginning stages of getting to the next level.”

According to information on the restaurant’s website, the concept for Judge’s has its roots with the Fulenwider family in the early 1980s. The restaurant opened on Feb. 7, 1986, and added an upper dining room, bar and deck in 1990. An outside shed was added in 2003 for entertainment, catering, fundraisers and weddings.

The restaurant temporarily closed on Sept. 7, 2004, because of severe hurricane flooding that left the building mostly underwater. It reopened on Feb. 14, 2006, and has remained in business ever since.

Before Judge’s opened, the location was the site of the former Riverside Fish Camp.

In addition to its signature barbecue, Judge’s menu is well-known for smoked chicken, steak, fish, hamburgers, sandwiches, pasta and more.

For more information about the restaurant, visit judgesriverside.com or call 828-433-5798.

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

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