New restaurant is a natural progression for Morrison brothers, in more ways than one
When the Morrison brothers opened Metro Coffeehouse and Pub, Kenny was 31 and Bobby was 26. Thirteen years later, they’ve opened Whiskey Bar (Kitchen) right next door to where it all began… except that their new venture is a bit more refined, polished and mature.
Kind of like some of their Metro regulars.
“One of our main ideas was that we wanted Whiskey to be a complementary place to Metro because Metro is like our first-born,” Kenny Morrison said recently from the counter at Whiskey Bar (Kitchen) that overlooks Broad Street. “This place is supposed to be the natural progression from Metro. It’s a little more grown up, a little less wild, but it still has that slightly hip vibe to it.”
Whereas Metro’s vibe can best be described as anything goes funky, Whiskey Bar (Kitchen) is welcoming and calm. The warm yellow walls with exposed brick are decorated with darkly stained palettes and, most notably, a buffalo skull hanging on the back wall. It’s a nod to the decade Kenny spent living in Denver, where he had originally planned to open a coffeehouse and bar.
It was Bobby, who often visited Kenny in Denver, who convinced him to bring the concept to Augusta. And though neither of them ended up settling down there, they still loved the Colorado feel.
“So when we talked about opening this place, we wanted it to have a very rustic, western feel,” Kenny explained. “And we wanted it to be a place where, whether you’re coming in from next door at Metro or from the Imperial Theater on a date, you’ll feel comfortable.”
From the name, customers might guess that Whiskey Bar (Kitchen) takes its drinking seriously, and that’s definitely the case. In addition to beer on tap and by the bottle, wines by the glass and a healthily stocked bar, it boasts 36 bottles of bourbon and whiskey, 11 of Irish whiskey, 19 of Scotch and seven of Canadian whiskey.
“That is actually my brother Bobby; he is a whiskey connoisseur,” Kenny said. “Most of our servers’ knowledge comes from him. We figured we needed to have a staff that was very knowledgeable about what they’re pouring. If someone comes in and orders a Jameson 18 year, we want people to serve it properly and be able to talk about it a little bit. In order to do that, they have to go through a training session.”
Plans are in the works for doubling their already extensive selection, offering a whiskey drinkers club with perks and offering whiskey dinners, with special menus paired with whiskeys.
Which brings us to the food, perhaps one of the most unusual aspects of Whiskey Bar (Kitchen). Why? Because while the Morrison brothers knew they wanted to offer food, they didn’t want to run their new establishment like a restaurant.
“We don’t consider ourselves a restaurant, first and foremost,” Kenny explained. “In most restaurants, you come in, you sit down, you order, you eat and then there’s this pressure to leave. We run this place like a bar and we train our staff to kind of keep people in here. We’re not big on flipping tables.”
In fact, they had the booths custom built so that the seats are at barstool height rather than at dining-table height.
“We’re trying to entice people to move around. Sliding in and out of a barstool is a lot easier than getting up from a dining table,” he said. “Plus, we’re a non-smoking establishment but smokers need to feel comfortable enough to get up and go outside. These are things we tried to keep in the forefront of our mind. We want regulars. Our regulars at Metro have kept that place open for over a decade and we wanted to have a very similar concept here too.”
One sure way to build a regular following is with good food, and that is something that Kenny and Bobby have had extraordinarily good luck with. Executive Chef Techan Inaba and Sous Chef Brandon Whitaker have come up with a menu that successfully merges the Asian with the Irish.
“In our original concept, we wanted the bar to be the engine; that’s why the kitchen is in parentheses in the logo,” Kenny said. “We wanted to maximize the bar concept because that’s what we know the best. However, since we’ve opened, the kitchen staff, they’re so talented that they’ve almost overtaken the bar.”
Kenny said he and his brother gave Inaba and Whitaker instructions — quality food without pretention, lots of hamburgers, Asian influence — and let them go.
“We just said, make something good. Let me see what you guys want to do and those two got together and, over the course of three weeks, literally went to town with it,” Kenny said. “They came up with some exotic sauces and different plating methods and we went from grub to higher-end bar food. As far as the kitchen staff goes, we have to rein them in sometimes. They want to do 8,000 new things. We have a two-page on-deck listing of stuff they want to add to the menu.”
For now the menu includes small plates (like Emerald Isle Edamame sautéed in whiskey), other plates (Asian-influenced bowls and Katsu Curry Rice with panko breaded pork loin), salads and, of course, their nine signature burgers. Those include everything from the Elway (onion rings, barbecue sauce, bacon, cheddar) to a chili-pimento cheese burger. Their breakfast burger is topped with a fried egg, bacon, cheddar and syrup, but even it’s not the most unusual one on the menu.
That honor would go to the TCB, a burger topped with smooth peanut butter, sliced banana, bacon and honey. “I’m a huge Elvis fan and one of our favorite restaurants in Atlanta is the Vortex and they have an Elvis burger,” Kenny explained. “So we took their concept and added a few more things to it. I think theirs has fried bananas on it and we like the bananas plain better. So we kind of borrowed that and it has turned out to be one of the biggest sellers we have.” In fact, though the interior mimics Colorado, Kenny said he and Bobby had their sights set a little closer when it came to whether they would feel they had succeeded with Whiskey Bar (Kitchen).
“We always joked around that we wanted the end result to be… if we could physically pick the restaurant up and set it down in Atlanta, would it still belong?” he said. “And I think we’ve done that.”
Whiskey Bar (Kitchen)
1048 Broad Street, Augusta
11 a.m.-midnight, Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-2 a.m.,
Friday; noon-2 a.m., Saturday; noon-10 p.m., Sunday
706-814-6159 You Might Also Like: