Mac and Bob’s: A Salem Mainstay
From a teeny 10-stool pub to a sprawling 330-seat restaurant with an 80 tap bar and enchanting patio, Mac & Bob’s is without a doubt steeped in Salem history and culture. Since 1980, the town of Salem and the students of Roanoke College have made Mac and Bob’s their second home. The restaurant and bar serves as the backdrop for high school and college reunions, victory celebrations, sporting events, family gatherings, and casual get togethers.
Known for their incredible calzones, Bostonzones, wings, pizza, salads, and delicious Americana fare, it’s no wonder that crowds of people fill up the bar each Friday night after the Salem High School football game. They share the establishment with hungry patrons and Roanoke College students enjoying wing night or a steak philly while watching various sports games on the many tv’s and big screens dotted throughout. On Sunday, you’ll find people eating brunch after church, and throughout the week, business crowds fill up the joint for lunch.
Regulars know there are some wonderful traditions at Mac & Bob’s. Alumni Weekend is the busiest weekend of the year where Roanoke College alums pack the house to reconnect with old friends and share stories of their past. St. Patrick’s Day is another special celebration with a live band, green beer and Shepherd’s Pie on the menu. You can’t leave out the famous Dinosaur Corner, where regulars come almost every day and sit at a special corner of the bar. These guys have been coming to the restaurant since Mac and Bob’s opened its doors, and some even have reserved parking!
A Family A-“Fare”
Bob, Joe, and Keith have been slingin’ subs and beer together for almost 40 years, and in doing so, have raised families and become a part of Salem’s fabric. The owners’ kids have all worked in some capacity for the restaurant, whether it’s rolling silverware, hostessing, waitressing, bartending or managing. In fact, Bob’s wife, Wendy, still does the payroll and accounting and Joe’s son, Joey, is currently a manager. As their families grew, a menu item was named after each of the kids when they were born and many menu items are named after regulars, employees and friends.
Mac & Bob’s has over 100 employees, but 15 active employees have been with the restaurant for 10 or more years! The Mac and Bob’s family extends far and wide.
The town of Salem has certainly become a part of Mac & Bob’s extended family, and it’s easy to see in all of the local sports team and player portraits proudly displayed on the restaurant’s walls. Roanoke College’s All American players, and the Salem and Glenvar High School Championship teams all have their place on the walls of Mac & Bob’s!
History & Expansion
Mac and Bob’s opened for business August 8th, 1980. Bob Rotanz and his friend, Mac, both Roanoke College graduates of 1978 and native New Yorkers, decided to open a restaurant across the street from their Alma Mater in downtown Salem, Virginia. Mac and Bob opened a ten stool “Sub Pub” selling New York style sandwiches and beer.
In October of 1980, Mac moved back to his hometown in New York and sold his interest in the restaurant to Bob Rotanz. In April of 1981 Mac and Bob’s moved down the street to the current location where the seating capacity increased from 10 to 36. This was the time that Joe Dishaw, also a graduate of Roanoke College and lacrosse team mate, class of 1978, bought into the business and became Bob’s new partner. Joe is also originally from New York.
In 1981, Keith Griswold, also from New York, was hired as the first manager and is now currently the General Manager. Keith was also a team mate of Bob and Joe’s on the Roanoke College lacrosse team.
In 1982 Mac and Bob’s expanded from 36 seats to 90 seats. In 1985, the drinking age in Virginia was changed from 18 years old to 21. In order to attract a larger market, Mac and Bob’s decided to expand both the menu and the restaurant. Joe Dishaw enrolled in the finest culinary school in the world, the Culinary Institute of America, located in Hyde Park, NY. Joe completed a 22 month chef program and graduated with honors.
In 1986, Mac and Bob’s expanded from 90 seats to 120 seats. Joe designed a new, more efficient kitchen that was four times the size of the previous kitchen. This kitchen, with new restaurant equipment, enabled Mac and Bob’s to make the transition from a pizza and sandwich menu to a full service restaurant with a more expanded menu.
From 1986 - 1992, the restaurant’s popularity grew to a point where there were waiting lines almost every night, and weekend evenings were extremely busy with long waits for tables. In 1992, Mac and Bob’s invested in their largest expansion, doubling the size of the restaurant! The seating capacity went from 120 seats to 230 seats, including a 48-foot bar. Tony Reyes, another teammate on the lacrosse team, 1978 graduate and native New Yorker, invested with his friends and became a silent partner. Tony currently resides in Breezy Point, NY.
Finally, in 2006, Mac and Bob’s added an outdoor courtyard with a covered outdoor bar. This expansion increased the seating capacity from 230 to 330. In 2007, the Roanoke Times named Mac and Bob’s the Best Outdoor Dining Spot in the entire Roanoke Valley. Also, in 2012, Virginia Living Magazine named Mac and Bob’s Outdoor Dining as the best in Southwest Virginia.
In the spring of 2013, Mac and Bob’s expanded its craft beer draft selection from 15 to 40 with a total of 80 taps. We now offer a wide selection of fresh draft beer from local, regional, and national breweries!