As a new Uptown New Orleans restaurant takes shape, all-American liquor takes the spotlight _lowres

Advocate staff photo by Ian McNulty - Bourbon will be prominently featured at Kenton's, a forthcoming Uptown restaurant named for the founder of an early hub of bourbon production.

It was clear that bourbon would be a cornerstone for the new Uptown restaurant now under construction at Nashville and Magazine streets. The project, slated to open this fall, is from the husband-and-wife team of Sean Josephs and Mani Dawes. They each run their own highly-regarded restaurants in New York City, and bourbon has a starring role at both of Josephs’ ventures.

Now, as more pieces take shape, it seems that the influence of the all-American liquor will reach beyond the bar to help direct the menu’s flavor profile. It’s even inspired the name.

The forthcoming restaurant will be called Kenton’s, after Simon Kenton, a frontiersman and a founder of Maysville, Kentucky. This riverfront town became an early hub for bourbon production and distribution with a special link to New Orleans.

“Maysville was the port from which bourbon first departed Kentucky, and New Orleans was where it went,” Josephs explained.

Maysville also was a major producer of wrought iron, much of which went downriver to decorate 19th century New Orleans buildings, he pointed out.

Kenton’s proprietors have a more intimate connection to New Orleans. Dawes grew up here, and the idea for their new restaurant came together during family visits over the years. The couple first outlined their local restaurant plans at a neighborhood meeting last fall, as Uptown Messenger reported.

In New York, Dawes runs the tapas restaurant Tia Pol, while Josephs’ restaurants include Char No. 4 (named for the charring inside bourbon casks) and the more upscale Maysville.

Josephs said Kenton’s will have “an encyclopedic collection of American whiskey,” along with a wine list reflecting his own background as a sommelier.

Kyle Knall, who is Josephs’ chef at Maysville, will serve as executive chef of Kenton’s. An Alabama native, Knall started his career working for Frank Stitt in Birmingham and was later sous chef at Danny Meyer’s Gramercy Tavern in New York. In a 2013 review of Maysville, New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells described Knall’s “understated American style” as “a winning blend of the refined and the unpretentious.”

At Kenton’s, the menu will make use of a wood-burning grill and smoker “for lots of smoked, grilled and charred flavors, which have such an affinity with bourbon,” Josephs said.

The restaurant will offer continuous service throughout the day, with an approach shifting from coffee and baked goods at breakfast through salads and sandwiches at lunch to a more upscale/casual style at dinner, with an oyster bar to boot.

“The trick is for the design of that space to be able to successfully navigate that arch,” Josephs said.

Kenton’s is under construction on the 5700 block of Magazine Street, as part of a new development by local firm Butler Callahan Holdings.

Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter @IanMcNultyNOLA.