Sean Josephs and Mani Dawes have opened Kenton's (5757 Magazine St., 504-891-1177), a restaurant focusing on American whiskey. The name is a tribute to Simon Kenton, founder of Maysville, Kentucky, a port city from which whiskey was first shipped down the Mississippi River. The restaurant's spirit selection includes more than 150 domestic ryes, bourbons and whiskeys.
Dawes was born and raised in New Orleans, and the couple long considered opening a restaurant here.
"Every time we would come visit ... we'd ask ourselves, 'Is this something we could actually do?'" Dawes says.
Josephs owns Maysville in New York's Flatiron District, and his restaurant Char No. 4 in Brooklyn closed in July after a seven-year run. Dawes runs the Spanish tapas restaurant Tia Pol in West Chelsea.
Kyle Knall is the executive chef. He's a native of Birmingham, Alabama, who worked at Danny Meyer's Gramercy Tavern in New York before being tapped to run the kitchen at Maysville, of which he is a partner.
The whiskey theme extends to Kenton's dinner menu. Oysters are smoked over bourbon-soaked hay. Bourbon is used instead of cognac or brandy to deglaze the pan in preparing the chicken liver terrine.
The 3,000-square-foot space formerly housed Rare Cuts and Vom Fass and has undergone a renovation designed by Berman Horn Studio. There's a brass countertop oyster bar, a long marble bar and two dining areas where dark green leather booths, vintage tiles, arched ceilings and custom-designed Bevolo lanterns create a cozy feel. Tabletops are made of white oak, the wood used for bourbon aging barrels. Dividing the bar and dining room is a five-panel glass mural of a river scene sketched by Dawes' mother Nancy Dawes.
The restaurant serves dinner daily and brunch on the weekends. Josephs expects to add breakfast and lunch service within a month.