Step inside the doors of Clara Bo Steak & Seafood and Gatsby Wine Bar, and it’s like going back in time.
The restaurant is an ode to the 1920s – a time when people from coast to coast started listening to the same music, and young people were anxious to get out and dance to the likes of the Charleston, the cake walk, the black bottom, and the flea hop.
It’s a period of time that Scott Murray learned to appreciate. Murray, a Janesville native, spent 25 years at ABC Supply Co. in a variety of roles from facilities manager and director of manufacturing. But opening a restaurant was his lifelong dream. Not just any restaurant. “I wanted a speakeasy club,” he says of the establishment made popular during the Prohibition era. “The charm from that era never goes out of style.”
Clara Bo, 1901 Liberty Dr., is housed in a 100-year-old building that, in the 1960s, was a chicken hatchery. It became a restaurant in the 1970s and most recently was the Liberty Inn before Murray bought it and put his own mark on it.
Clara Bo has all the right ingredients
“It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do,” he says. “It’s far exceeded my expectations. It is beautiful space with an amazing staff, incredible food, and atmosphere that is second to none. Clara Bo has all the right ingredients.”
The restaurant is named after Clara Bow, a 1920s actress who, with her bright red lips, short hair and even shorter dresses, was Hollywood’s first sex symbol. Bow appeared in more than 50 feature films over her short career, but it was her role in the 1927 movie “It” that made her famous and earned her the nickname “The It Girl.” A friend suggested the name to Murray for his restaurant. He liked it. “It seemed to fit,” he says.
Murray had the space completely gutted before opening the doors in the summer of 2014. The massive renovation included creating more private dining areas, two bars, wine cellar, Art Deco influenced lighting, custom woodwork, and re-finishing of existing 1920s wood floors. Glass wine storage walls were used as a space defining signature element in both the restaurant and Gatsby, the downstairs wine bar.
Clara Bo is intimate; there is seating for approximately 45 guests, which includes booths, tables and a chef’s table located near the front of the restaurant. Paintings of Clara Bow hang from the walls and fireplaces on both levels give the space an even cozier feel.
Gatsby with its limestone walls and comfortable seating is the ideal spot to meet up with friends. The lounge features live music on Wednesday and Saturday evenings, and has its own menu that includes a variety of appetizers on smaller plates. The restaurant will also offer outdoor patio seating in the near future. “People come and stay for hours,” says Murray. “They don’t want to leave.”
Murray gives much of the credit for the look and feel to Sabrina Larson, a Janesville-based designer who owns Interiors by Sabrina. “She incorporated the 1920s period that I was shooting for,” Murray says. “She has incredible taste and she made my dreams come true.”
Signature items at Clara Bo are seafood and steak
The signature items at Clara Bo are seafood and steak; you’ll also find a variety of pastas, salads, appetizers, entrees and desserts. The wine list stands at approximately 140 and there are 24 different beers on tap. The menu is anything but traditional. “I get compliments on many of our dishes,” Murray says. “We don’t have a traditional fish fry, for example. We have fresh seafood flown in every day.”
When people come to Clara Bo, it feels like a destination
Hungry customers come to Clara Bo from throughout southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois. “Beloit is community that thrives on quality dining,” Murray says. “When people come to Clara Bo, it feels like a destination – like a Las Vegas, New York or Chicago.”
In addition to lunch and dinner, Clara Bo welcomes private events, including bridal showers, rehearsal dinners and birthday parties.
Clara Bo is open Monday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. until close.Back To The Beloit Experience