For his third Louisville establishment, Chef Edward Lee is departing from his fine dining roots.
Whiskey Dry will be a casual burger and whiskey bar at Fourth Street Live. Lee described it as a bar with a “chef-centric point of view.”
Unlike most whiskey and bourbon bars, Lee said Whiskey Dry won’t feature the traditional dark woods and leather design, but rather opt for a more modern look. The design specifics are still being formulated.
“This is really meant to be a fun concept,” Lee told Insider Louisville. “What I don’t want is an old-school, snooty whiskey bar. We want to create a whiskey bar for the next generation.”
Lee owns the high-end restaurants Milkwood and 610 Magnolia; he is known for his modern mix of Southern and Asian cuisines. He also owned a short-lived fast-casual concept called Potstickers on Baxter Avenue.
While Whiskey Dry’s menu will focus on the classically American burger, expect a mix of unique flavors and locally sourced ingredients.
“We can’t reveal too much of the menu, mostly because we are still working on it,” Lee said. “We want to do a menu that is acceptable but also sort of challenges people.”
Whiskey Dry will feature more than 200 whiskeys from America, Ireland, Japan and elsewhere, he said. Customers will be able to drink the whiskeys on the rocks or in a cocktail, and each burger will have a suggested whiskey pairing.
“To me what is fascinating is being able to tell the entire story of whiskey” at Whiskey Dry, Lee said.
He’s crafting the bar menu with the help of Milkwood’s general manager Stacie Stewart and Noah Rothbaum, a food and drink editor at The Daily Beast and author of “The Art of American Whiskey” and “The Business of Spirits.”
“I would admittedly say I know less about European whiskeys so (Rothbaum) is going to help us round out the list,” Lee said, also noting that Stewart will play a larger role in his restaurant group overall.
The restaurant will open in the former The Pub space at Fourth Street Live. It will likely seat around 70 people and have a private room in the back that people can rent.
Lee decided to open a new concept at Fourth Street Live after becoming acquainted with Ed Hartless, executive director of Fourth Street Live, who Lee said often comes to Milkwood. “We got friendly and started talking,” he said.
Lee said he realizes that some Louisville residents will have strong feelings about Whiskey Dry’s location, but he thought it was important to have local flavor at the tourism hotspot.
“Fourth Street Live is sort of the center of tourism downtown. I know people have strong opinions about Fourth Street Live, one way or another, but you can’t deny that they get thousands and thousands of out-of-town visitors,” Lee said. “There should be a local chef-driven concept there. We really took it as a window of opportunity.”
Whiskey Dry is a partnership between Lee and Cordish Cos., the owner of Fourth Street Live. Lee said he could not discuss the details of the partnership.
Insider Louisville reached out for Fourth Street Live for comment on the new business but did not hear back.
Whiskey Dry will open anytime between late April to early June, Lee said. The hours of operation aren’t set, but Whiskey Dry will serve lunch and dinner seven days a week, as well as stay open late on the weekends.
“It is really hard to find something decent to eat later in the evening in Louisville,” he said.
Lee told IL that he wasn’t sure how many employees would staff the restaurant. Eater reported that Lee plans to offer a 40-week youth training program at Whiskey Dry for six to eight young adults from Smoketown and West Louisville. Those who complete the program will be offered a full-time job at one of Lee’s restaurants.
The program is an extension of Lee’s existing partnership with YouthBuild, a nonprofit that connects young people with job training. Lee started offering culinary training at Milkwood and 610 Magnolia a couple of years ago.