Barrelhouse owners hope to provide economically sound business with character to community
By ALEX JACKS
In the heart of Fondren, where art, entertainment and, most important, fine dining take a front seat, sits the newest hub that combines all three characteristics.
Barrelhouse, named for its exposed barrel rolled ceiling and prominent Cajun cuisine roots, recently opened on the Fondren strip. Marty Clapton and Andrew Kehoe, the owners of the establishment, classify Barrelhouse as a Southern gastropub.
Kehoe, who also servers as the restaurant’s general manager, said the food covers a little bit of every cuisine type, but primarily focuses on Southern and Cajun.
“The menu is not very in depth when it comes to the number of options, but is in depth with flavor and style,” he said. “For instance, we have a meatball menu on the main menu, which is something different that we offer.”
Stephen Kruger is the executive chef of Barrelhouse and is the mastermind behind the restaurant’s unusually fun dishes, Kehoe said.
“He has done an outstanding job to help create dishes around our concept,” he said.
Barrelhouse’s bestselling dish aligns itself with Kehoe’s vision of providing another form of flavor to Fondren.
“So far our bestseller is our Ahi Tuna Poké Nachos,” he said. “Yes, tuna nachos!”
As for the drinks, Barrelhouse offers an array of cocktails, wine and beer.
“We have a nice little cocktail list that is a little more Bourbon forward, but we are not necessarily a Bourbon bar,” Kehoe said. “Some of the drinks are named from places in the neighborhood, just trying to keep it fun. We have a small and simple wine list that I want to grow some here and there. Our draft beer has 12 lines and comes in a decent size bottle, can or bomber selection.”
Clapton, a local real estate broker, originally planned on leasing out the space Barrelhouse is located in, not becoming a restaurateur. After brainstorming with Kehoe — who previously worked with an investment group to open Fondren Public — the two men formed the idea behind Barrelhouse.
“Limited existing real estate in the Fondren area led to the location,” Kehoe said. “Our space was the last open spot at the time on the main strip that could handle a restaurant, so here we are.”
The concept and name behind the restaurant came from an unexpected historical finding within the building.
“When we got the space, there was a four inch thick drop-down plaster ceiling covering all of the exposed wood and steel trusses,” Kehoe said. “Marty poked a hole in the ceiling early on and we saw what was being hidden from sight. Finding the original ceiling helped us develop the concept and style of what we wanted.”
In the past, the property was once a Universal Fitness, an antiques market and a few other businesses in between, Kehoe said.
“The space was built in 1946 and the barrel rolled ceiling you now see was the original ceiling,” he said. “Having that drop down ceiling for the past 70 years helped preserve the wood. We stained and sealed the wood before we opened.”
In Kehoe’s opinion, the history of the space adds to the character of Barrelhouse and Fondren.
“We want to be another place that continues to add to the flavor of Fondren,” he said. “The first thing that strikes me about Barrelhouse is the atmosphere and design. There really isn’t another restaurant in town that has the rustic warehouse feel. Our three-inch-thick Cypress bar top, steel trusses, Sputnik chandeliers, front side walk patio, good food and drink all help add to the beauty of Barrelhouse and the community.”
Kehoe said one of his primary goals in opening Barrelhouse was to bring another thriving, economically sound business to the area.
“We hope to bring another successful local business to Jackson and the Fondren neighborhood,” he said. “Fondren is continuing to evolve into something very special, and we just want to do what we can to add another spot to the landscape.”
Barrelhouse is located at 3009 North State St. in Jackson. The restaurant is open Monday through Friday from 4 p.m. to midnight and Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to midnight. For more information about Barrelhouse or to view the full menu, visit www.barrelhousems.com.