Swine Southern Table & Bar: John Kunkel Gives Us a Tour (Photos)
Pigs are on the move. Swine opens soon.
All photos by Laine Doss
Swine Southern Table & Bar is set to open Saturday, March 9. It will be the first time the restaurant team that created 50 Eggs will move its brand of dining onto the mainland (not counting fast-casual concept Lime Fresh Mexican).
Swine Southern Table & Bar, like Yardbird Southern Table & Bar and Khong River House, is decorated with repurposed wood. John Kunkel, restaurateur and the brain behind 50 Eggs Inc., parent of Swine, pointed out some paint that was still deeply embedded in the wood, salvaged from an old building. "See that red? That's the original color of the barn."
Kunkel was at Swine to taste some items. He is extremely hands on, but he insists he's not a micromanager. Indeed, as Jeff McInnis (executive chef/partner at Yardbird) brought out dish after dish, Kunkel asked questions of the chef and then the staff around him. For instance, when McInnis, on loan from Yardbird to help kickstart the sibling restaurant, brought out a large steak with chicken-fried steak fries (yes, chicken-fried steak fries), he asked whether to serve ketchup or aioli with the side. Though Kunkel initially liked the aioli, others agreed the pairing was too rich and the acidity and sweetness of a house-made ketchup would work better. Majority ruled.
There's attention to every detail -- from the 50-pound iron machinery
pieces decorating the walls to the bitters in the cocktails. As we tour
the kitchen, Kunkel points out everything -- from the large J&R
smoker to the grill, as we maneuver between the staff going through a
full-scale dress rehearsal.
Kunkel even showed us the bathrooms, "My
wife said that I used to skimp on the bathrooms. I don't anymore."
bi-level space is masculine and warm. "I like to think of Swine as
Yardbird's tougher younger brother," the restaurateur told us between
bites of speck cured in-house. With two bars and a long communal table
that sits about two dozen people, the space is decorated in tones of
sepia and browns.
Large black and white photographs, part of a photo
documentary on Mississippi blues culture by award-winning
photojournalist Bill Steber give the room a moody feeling, like it's
been around for decades instead of not-yet-open.
Even on the cusp
of opening, Kunkel has his eye on other projects. He talks about his 50
Eggs Test Kitchen and wanting to help rising chefs and restaurateurs
navigate the various minutiae that come up in the process of opening and
operating a restaurant. "If you come to me without doing your homework
I'll just send you on your way. But if you have a good business plan and
are really serious, I want to talk with you," he said.
next for Kunkel? Even before the paint is dried on the large pig
drawings on the walls of Swine, he tells us about Khong Fuzi, a late night
noodle and bun shop soon to open on Alton Road, adjacent to the
original Lime and the only one Kunkel still owns. "There was a guy in
Korea that has this little shop and I don't think he ever closed.
Originally that was my concept for Khong River House, but the space was
just too big for a fast-casual restaurant."
Also on deck? A
speakeasy in Coral Gables. "I'm already working with my bar manager,
Robert Ferrara, on some great cocktails. I don't even have a space yet,
but maybe I should just start the permitting process now -- just in
Steak with chicken-fried steak fries. The steak is topped with horseradish slaw and the fries are accompanied by
John Kunkel serves us ribs after being assured by the chefs that each order will arrive at the table fall-off-the-bone tender -- even on a busy night.
Fresh vegetables are a colorful touch. Expect to see some sides from Yardbird, like the mac 'n cheese, and some completely new items.
"Do you like your greens?" Kunkel asks.
House-cured charcuterie and pate.
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