A new experience is heading Down Port, with a focus on whiskey.
Thanks to a group of 10 from all across the North Shore, the entrepreneurs have taken over the former space of Fork & Fiddle, now creating The Whiskey Barrel.
Located at 138 Main St., the group of whiskey enthusiasts signed the lease just two weeks ago and are anticipating a Memorial Day weekend opening.
John Louis, owner of Maui Chop House in Rocky Point, said The Whiskey Barrel will focus primarily on brown liquors, and also feature a full menu.
“We have 100-plus bottles of whiskey, bourbon, Scotch,” he said.
And the menu will be curated by 18-year-old Maddy Bender, the barrel’s young and enthusiastic sous-chef and partner, who’s been working and gaining notoriety at Maui Chop House over the last year.
“It’s more of like a rustic American kind of thing,” she said. “We’re going to have all different burgers and wings. We’re going do a steak sandwich or pork katsu sandwich, so definitely something that would be really cool with all the different bourbons and whiskeys.”
Bender added the barrel will also have bourbon and whiskey pairings on the menu.
The recent college student said this whole experience has been surreal.
“John told me that he was looking to possibly open a new place in the village and said, ‘I want you to come in as a partner with me,’” she said. “And I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is crazy.’ And now that it’s like actually happening, John says it to me every day, that I’m not even 21 and I’m going to be owning a bar. He gave me the keys and it’s so real now.”
The group began discussing the idea less than two months ago, Louis said, and from then it was full-speed ahead.
Now that they took over the former Southern-inspired spot, which closed right before the COVID-19 pandemic after a short-lived life on Main Street, Louis said that all they need to do is build a bar and do some cosmetic changes.
“All the fixtures, the kitchen’s in great shape, brand-new fridges I think that only had been on for six months — it’s all ready to go,” said co-owner David Tracy, of Stony Brook.
Thomas Francis, of South Setauket, said he hopes this restaurant becomes a destination.
“It’s really that old-world Kentucky cigar-bar feel that we’re going for,” he said. “It’s something that when you walk in, it’s going to be a destination. It’s going to be why you want to come to Port Jeff.”
Francis, a whiskey expert himself, said that the bar will not be a place with intimidation.
“Some of this might intimidate folks,” he said. “So, hand in hand is an education aspect. We bring people along for the experience, and shepherd them along the way.”
He hopes that it will be a place where those who are interested can learn the whiskey ways.
“We’re not just looking to open the doors and that’s it,” Francis added. “We want to be an experience, and have you come along for the ride.”
The group said they also obtained their tobacco license and will sell cigars to pair with the liquors.
But for those who can’t handle a whiskey or a bourbon, don’t worry. Another part owner, Paul Hess of Rocky Point, said there will be craft beer on tap and a wine list.
Bender said that although the group of partners and investors is large, everyone brings some-thing different to the table.
“We have a little bit of everything in here,” she said.