Jay Zuspan’s first experience in the restaurant business was washing dishes when he was 15.
Now, the 28-year-old Virginia native is the owner of his own restaurant in downtown Hagerstown.
“I’m up for the challenge,” Zuspan said about opening his restaurant, 28 South, at 28 S. Potomac St. “I think we need some young blood downtown to get things rolling. I think downtown needs some young people to invest in it or we’re never going to get anywhere.”
Zuspan said he wants to open Sept. 8, but that date might change if he hits a snag.
He said the 28 South menu is influenced by popular dishes from the Chesapeake Bay and Shenandoah Valley. It features a variety of fare, including artisan pizza, burgers, paninis, sandwiches, crab cakes, steak, Cajun shrimp and Virginia cordon bleu pasta.
Zuspan said he limited the number of items on the menu to ensure quality.
“I’d rather have 20 items that are great than 40 items that are mediocre,” he said. “We’re going to have good food at an affordable price.”
He said the average lunch will cost about $7, and dinner will average about $16.
In addition to an affordable menu, 28 South will feature 30 beers on tap, including “eccentric” labels and local brands, such as Flying Dog out of Frederick, Md.
Zuspan said he intends to buy cheeses and vegetables from local farmers to guarantee freshness.
He said he has been in the restaurant business for 13 years, starting his career washing dishes at Hank’s Smokehouse near Harrisonburg, Va. Zuspan worked his way up to line cook, then attended Baltimore International (Culinary) College. He graduated in 2006, and most recently worked as executive chef at Always Ron’s restaurant on Burhans Boulevard in Hagerstown.
Zuspan said he intends to employ about 20 people.
He said he is leasing the building from Demcore Development. The site at 28 S. Potomac St. was the home of the Taj India restaurant from 2009 to February of this year, and Duffy’s restaurant from 2006 to 2009.