Kenton's is now open on Magazine Street.
At Kenton’s (
5757 Magazine St., 504-891-1177), a new restaurant from Sean Josephs and Mani Dawes, the focus is on American whiskey, especially bourbon.
The spirit selection includes more than 150 domestic ryes, bourbons and whiskeys. The restaurant uses white oak tabletops – the same wood in barrels used to age bourbon. The name is a tribute to Simon Kenton, founder of the town of Maysville, Kentucky, a port city from which whiskey was first shipped down the Mississippi River.
The restaurant, which opened this week on a quiet stretch of Magazine Street, is the third iteration of Josephs' love affair with American whiskey. There’s also
Maysville in New York's flatiron district, and Char No. 4, the Cobble Hill restaurant which closed in July after a seven-year run. His wife, Dawes, runs the Spanish tapas restaurant Tia Pol in West Chelsea.
The couple, who have three children, were drawn to opening a restaurant in New Orleans following trips over the years to visit Dawes’ family.
“Every time we would come visit ... we’d always ask ourselves, ‘Is this something we could actually do?’" Dawes says. " I love New Orleans and was born and raised here. We’re so happy to finally be here."
Josephs says Kenton’s has the most residential setting of his restaurants, a place he imagines neighbors and passersby could stop in throughout the day.
The 3,000-square-foot space formerly housed Rare Cuts and Vom Fass and has undergone a dramatic renovation in the past six months. Designed by Berman Horn Studio, it features a marble bar stretching the length of the restaurant and two dining areas where dark green leather booths, vintage tiles, arched ceiling details and custom-designed Bevolo lanterns create a cozy bistro feel.
Dividing the bar and dining room, a five-panel glass mural sketched by Dawes' mother, Nancy Dawes, depicts an 19th-century river scene on the Mississippi. An oyster bar with a brass countertop anchors the corner of the restaurant overlooking the intersection of Nashville Avenue and Magazine Street.
The restaurant has a full bar, but the cocktail menu is whiskey-based. It includes a list of the classics – Sazerac, Manhattan, Old Fashioned – as well as several original creations.
Manning the kitchen is executive chef Kyle Knall, a Birmingham, Alabama native who worked at Danny Meyer’s renowned 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 the dinner menu where, Josephs says, “smoked, charred and grilled flavors that have an affinity of bourbon” are featured but “understated and subtle.” Oysters are smoked over hay that has been soaked in bourbon, and in a chicken liver terrine, it’s bourbon, not cognac or brandy, that’s used to deglaze the cooking vessel and imbue extra flavor. Sauces for several meat dishes, such as a smoked and grilled butcher’s steak, might include red wine but are also fortified with whiskey.
The restaurant serves dinner daily and brunch on the weekends. Josephs expects to start serving breakfast and lunch within a month.