Wednesday, June 26th, 2019

Warriors Taphouse Story


Giving back to those who have given so much

by Candance Moore

Owners Mike Herron, Dave Culler and Tony Bird

Owners Mike Herron, Dave Culler and Tony Bird

This is dining as it should be: a perfectly-crafted draft drink, a delicious scratch-made dish, a uniquely inviting atmosphere, and a chance to help others. Thanks to an innovative business model created by Dave Culler, Tony Bird and Mike Herron, this dining experience is now available at Warriors Taphouse in Virginia Beach.

Dave, a retired Navy F-18 pilot from a military family, was deeply concerned over the plight of disabled veterans. He also had a passion for home brewing, and as he developed his skills in that area, he began envisioning a brewery that would donate its proceeds to help vets and their families.

He shared his idea with Mike, whose son is currently serving, and whose father and grandfather were both veterans. Once Tony, a retired spec war operator turned commercial diver joined the team as the third partner, the vision took shape.

The three men developed the idea of an upscale taphouse serving locally brewed craft beers—a family-friendly environment in which guests could also enjoy a high-quality lunch or dinner while catching up on local events, with proceeds benefitting veterans and their families. They chose a restaurant just a stone’s throw from Oceana and Dam Neck to accommodate their unique vision.

“It was impossible to put what we wanted on paper,” Tony recalls. “We spent sleepless nights trying to figure out how to make an idea a reality.”

The reality is impressive. A glistening, high-gloss bar—seemingly a mile long—greets patrons. Behind it, over fifty taps dispense an impressive array of craft beers, wines and cold-brew coffees. Nitrous brews, spicy seasonal offerings, light-as-a-feather cider mixes, and robust flavor explosions offer a full spectrum of options to please any palate. Many of the drinks are sourced from Virginia breweries, and innovative brewers are always stopping by with new creations. For younger guests dining with their parents, authentic draft root beer (perhaps featuring a dollop of ice cream) is a favorite.

Executive Chef Adam Snyder uses only the best of locally-grown produce <BR>to create an impressive variety of outstanding dishes.

Executive Chef Adam Snyder uses only the best of locally-grown produce
to create an impressive variety of outstanding dishes.

Taking a seat at the bar, patrons can peruse an inset display of over 350 authentic service challenge coins and pins that were donated by the military community and family members. Tony points out each shiny speck as he reverentially explains the profound service that earned it. A patron could spend an hour learning military history just by sitting for drinks at the bar.

Above the bar is a massive indoor pergola. The owners built it themselves using reclaimed wood from Navy shipyard pallets. It stretches over high-rise bar tables made of gorgeous wood, which offer a better view of sporting events on the inconspicuous silent TV screens above. Behind them are tables and booths perfectly suited for a family get-together. A giant dog-tag inlay on the floor offers inspirational words that every young adult ought to read. Like most items in the restaurant, it was hand-crafted by a veteran.

“Usually the process with new patrons goes like this:
they’ll drop in to try a great drink,
then the food will make them stay,
and then the charitable mission
will bring them back.”

     —Dave Culler

On the opposite wall hang posters, enlarged from black and white photographs of family members and a dear friend who honorably served our nation These life-size images include legendary Vice Admiral Jerry Tuttle, whose personal mentoring influenced Dave’s family. There’s Dave’s father smiling atop a Navy A-4 Skyhawk in between missions in Vietnam. Next to him is Tony’s father, a few years after surviving combat in World War II. In the next poster proudly stands Mike Herron’s father who served in the United States Marine Corp, fighting in the Pacific during World World II, and who later become a CIA agent.

Outside is a patio with two massive fire pits, perfect for sipping a beverage with friends beneath the stars. Live music on Saturday evenings, Tuesday night trivia competitions and community fundraisers enliven the Warriors Taphouse with an extra burst of energy and fun.

Although the bar would seem to dominate the restaurant, patrons needn’t be drink connoisseurs to enjoy the experience. Executive Chef Adam Snyder is classically trained in a wide variety of cuisines. He uses locally-grown seasonal produce to create exceptionally fresh scratch-made dishes. Although Adam had never before worked in a tap house, he embraced the vision of helping service members by offering the public outstanding food, drink, and hospitality. Adam relies on local sources including Virginia Beach’s Pungo-Tuck Beef and Veg Out Gardens. When he first approached them with the news that Dave, Tony and Mike were opening a tap house to raise charitable proceeds for veterans, no one quite knew how it would all come together.

 “Dave, Tony and Mike put a lot of trust in me those early months,” Adam confides. “I was given the space to make a menu I’d be proud of. Once they started tasting my creations, they were all in.”

Warriors Taphouse Owner Tony Bird  in front of a photograph of his father.

Warriors Taphouse Owner Tony Bird in front of a photograph of his father.

Although the menu always features some tried-and-true favorites, it changes seasonally to make use of the best produce available at the time. Currently, it offers soup made from scratch using fresh-baked heirloom pumpkins, a buttery smooth roasted pear galette, and ribeye cooked sous-vide for unbelievable tenderness. Smoky pork tacos and in-house pretzels are among the favorite foods at the bar. Warriors Taphouse offers weekly specials and discounts to active duty and  retired military, along with police, firefighters and other first responders.

Assistant General Manager Coleen Conklin is dedicated to providing all guests with a seamlessly enjoyable dining experience. Whether stopping in for a drink during lunch or dining with family, all patrons receive a warm welcome and outstanding service.

Since its grand opening less than a year ago, the taphouse has gained an ever-growing group of devoted patrons.

 “Usually the process with new patrons goes like this: they’ll drop in to try a great drink, then the food will make them stay, and then the charitable mission will bring them back,” Dave explains.

The restaurant has donated thousands to worthy causes. These include Equi-vets, a local project that gives equine therapy to veterans with PTSD; PiN Ministry, for its efforts to rescue homeless veterans; the Run to Remember Virginia Beach, as well as the UDT/Seal Association.

“Warriors Taphouse offers a great meal, fantastic beverages, and a truly intimate look into the lives of real war heroes—all while funding an important cause,” Dave says. “It’s kind of a perfect package. Once customers give us a try, they ask where we’ve been all their lives.”

Warriors Taphouse

1630 General Booth Boulevard
Virgina Beach , VA 23454