It seems like it’s been a “coming attraction” for longer than some businesses last. Months ago news spread that a bourbon and burgers place would fill the spot at 35 Market Square previously occupied by Sangria’s. For some reason Sangria’s never attracted a following even though tapas aren’t available elsewhere downtown. The idea of this particular combination seemed intriguing and it finally became a reality this past Friday when The Stock and Barrel opened on Market square.
I spoke to B.G. DeHart, one of the owners of the new restaurant, a couple of weeks ago as they worked to get the place ready for opening day. It had been a difficult journey, which is often the case getting a new business off the ground. Inspections that seemed as if they should be a rubber stamp turned into changes that needed to be made before the doors could open.
B.G. is a graduate student at Belmont College in Business Administration and had an eye for a conventional business career. He’d thought that the restaurant business, in which he had spent several years with friends, was behind him. His work with Bill Angelos at Angelos on the Point in Dandridge would not, as it turned out, be his last connection with the family. Late night discussions led to the thought that this particular concept might be something interesting to try.
It might appear that Knoxville was the obvious choice, so they came to the city to find their spot. In fact, that is not the case. They looked first in Charleston, then in Nashville and didn’t find the perfect spot. 35 Market Square came open and they had to act fast because another business had selected it as their next location. They were fortunate enough to finish the deal first and thus began the long effort to bring the concept to fruition.
It started when eventual chef, Niko Angelos, came into the city for dinner with his wife. He spotted the property on a weekend, they called on Monday and by Wednesday had signed the lease. The entire space is 1852 square feet and features a small kitchen, so Niko knew they would have to keep the menu simple. It is simple, but it also features some nice options depending on you culinary needs and desires.
It all starts with beef and theirs comes from John Mitchell at Mitchell Family Farms. They raise grass-fed, hormone and steroid-free cattle and will be the exclusive supplier of beef to the restaurant. I understood that Flourhead Bakery supplies the buns for the burgers – and for the vegetarian and chicken varieties which are also offered, but the website mentions Provence Bakery in Nashville, so I’m not sure on that front. Cruz Farms will provide the milk – which is important because one of the unique features of the restaurant is milkshakes. I’m not sure where you’d find another milkshake downtown. Vegetables will come from the Market Square Farmers’ Market when it is in season and, of course, the bacon is Benton’s.
The menu includes primarily sandwiches. That said, the offerings stray from varieties of gourmet burgers to include a black bean burger, salmon burger and a chicken sandwich, so red meat is not required. One member in our party commented that it seems a beef place might have a steak or two on the menu, which may be impossible with their kitchen, but seemed like a reasonable thought, to me. Appetizers range from pimento cheese, through mushrooms, fried pickles and crab dip. Several salads – which could be a meal – are offered as well as apple pie and peanut butter pie.
The drinks include some things you might not expect in a bourbon restaurant. Three different kinds of milk shakes and a pretty good wine list also share space with a variety of cocktails – most of which are bourbon based. On tap are a variety of specialty beers such as Blue Moon, Blackstone, Yazoo and our very own Saw Works. Other brands are stocked by the bottle.
The bourbon, of course is a major attraction and the list seemed extensive to me, though that’s out of my usual realm of experience. Buffalo Trace is the supplier and forty different types of bourbon are available from small batch bourbons to the most popular brands. Our groups sampled the Angel’s Envy, Blanton’s and Maker’s Mark. Each had it’s own personality and flavor palate, but the unifying theme as we each described our choice was smoothness. If you can’t decide, not to worry: they offer flights.
You can go as crazy as you like if you want to see exactly what you might get for nearly fifty dollars a glass. The high-end includes Elijah Craig 21 for $50, the Eagle Rare 17 Year for $50, the George T. Stagg for $50 and several others. Our crowd wasn’t quite the wealthy aficionados to want to go there.
The bar and decor in general are beautiful. Barn wood and tin have been harvested to make an interior that is rustic and warm, yet somehow upscale. The liquors displayed behind the bar are beautiful and the art is interesting. How can you go wrong when the art includes John Goodman and the Dude?
Our verdict on Friday night was that some work still needs to be done on coordinating service. We had the wrong dishes delivered, followed by our order, but still not right (bacon burgers with no bacon). We all agreed the burgers were excellent and the fries are extremely good. The onion rings carry heavy grease, so if you aren’t used to that, beware. We wanted desert but were never offered any, so I can’t tell you how the peanut butter pies tasted and I’m not sure if they have coffee, which I would have ordered.
Not deterred by first night snags, we’ll definitely return. They were absolutely slammed and if that is any indication of how they are going to do, they should be with us for a long time. I don’t ever remember seeing Sangria’s nearly full and there was a wait by the time we left. They don’t accept reservations, so you might want to go early or late to avoid the biggest crowd, but I would definitely encourage you to give them a try.