What was once an unassuming title loan office is quickly being transformed into a cool downtown food and drink destination.
Bourbon & Baker, 312 Poyntz Ave., is a new restaurant being opened by the folks who brought the popular Harry’s eatery to Manhattan.
Evan Grier, who owns the restaurants with his wife, Andrea, didn’t have a firm opening date for the new place, but said it will happen soon.
Grier said customers can expect the kind of quality associated with Harry’s, but that the ambience would be a little different. “We’ll take off the white tablecloths and turn up the music,” he said.
The concept is small plates and shareable entrees with a Southern flair. Shrimp and grits. Stuffed piquillo peppers. Truffle popcorn. Southern sushi rolls. And family-style offerings like fried chicken.
Not surprisingly, bourbon will be the main focus of the bar, with 61 different varieties.
“At Harry’s, we had as many people ask about bourbons as we did about wine,” Grier said.
There also will be wine — some of it on tap! — offered by the bottle or by the glass. It will be served in glasses made from old wine bottles.
At the back of the restaurant is a bakery that will handle all the desserts and special orders for Harry’s and Bourbon & Baker. It will also have a retail counter with a daily selection of baked goods for sale.
The back-door bakery has another bonus: easy access to the parking lot behind the building for the restaurant’s customers.
Despite its less-than-exciting former incarnation as a loan office, the space has a long, narrow footprint and high ceilings, which make for a dramatic entrance. Inside, reds and blacks now feature heavily. One wall is covered in 70 feet of non-repeating custom wallpaper with staff members’ family recipes – creating the effect of a mural.
The eclectic decor is sophisticated but casual, with a homey feel.
Modern globe lights are mixed with vintage chandeliers.
Many pieces are reclaimed items, like the tabletops that used to be bowling-alley floors, and the colorful front of the bar, which is trim pieced together from old Victorian houses on Quality Hill in Kansas City that were torn down.
“It’s fun and playful,” Grier said. “We want guests to feel as though they can come in after work with flip-flops and shorts,” he said.
There will be booths and small tables, but also some big communal tables that can accommodate big groups or several small parties.
Grier said the opening has been a team effort, with many of the top staff members from Harry’s collaborating.
Executive chef Cadell Bynum, sous chef Zach Filbert, pastry chef Kirsten Spear and manager Katie Stone all had a hand in the development of Bourbon & Baker.
“We want (customers) to feel relaxed, and feel that it’s as much their place as it is ours,” he said.