V-Grits Food Co. is about to get its brick and mortar restaurant — including a brewery — and the space that once housed neighborhood favorite the Monkey Wrench is about to get transformed.
Kristina Addington and Jeff Hennis, owners of V-Grits, will partner with local brewer Shawn Steele to create a two-concepts-in-one vegan eatery and brewery at the space, located at 1025 Barret Ave.
Construction has begun, and a floor plan is being developed; April is the targeted open date for the restaurant side, with the brewery to hopefully follow in the summer.
V-Grits rose to prominence as a food truck concept, and the partners since have added a line of packaged vegan foods such as cashew cheeses and ready-made meals, and a rotating concept called Vegan Supper Club.
Addington and Hennis also launched the annual Louisville VegFest event. They previously had begun work to open a restaurant in Portland, but that plan fell through early this year, prompting them to look for a new location.
Steele, meanwhile, also had been searching for a location for a brewery he has been planning. Steele had spent much of 2016 and 2017 working at Akasha Brewing, and the experience of not only brewing commercially but also developing his own recipes inspired him.
Ironically, a little over three years ago, V-Grits held its launch party at the Monkey Wrench, and Steele’s former band, Violet Knives, performed. Steele, Addington and Hennis had worked on other projects together previously, so there was a familiarity and trust established. He reached out to see if a V-grits/brewery concept would be of interest, and Addington said it was an easy “yes.”
“It feels like it’s come full circle,” she told Insider.
The kitchen will be expanded as part of the renovation; the familiar bar area will remain in place and will be the brewery side.
Meanwhile, the stage will be removed to create the dining side of the business. The rooftop bar will be utilized during warm weather months.
The planned five-barrel brewhouse will be set up in the front of the space to overlook the corner of Winter Street and Barret Avenue.
The V-Grits menu will be familiar to those who followed the food truck, with healthful and fresh organic meals such as salads and fruit-based dishes joining the fold. But the V-Grits “vegan junk food” approach remains, with the signature loaded macaroni and cheese dishes a staple.
Vegan snacks will also be prepared for the bar/brewery side, and the restaurant will be fast-casual style.
Steele’s brewery will be called False Idol Independent Brewers, a name he said represents staying true to one’s self. His hope is to use the smaller brewery to be creative with small-batch beers and to “serve the neighborhood.”
He also is a co-founder of Seven Sense Fest, which helped fuel his desire to own a neighborhood-focused business.
Steele added, “There’s still plenty of room to serve neighborhoods. There’s not much room to be the next Sierra Nevada.”
Steele — who also is vegan — said he will focus on using adjunct grains in familiar styles, having made a yeast-rye pale ale while at Akasha. Meanwhile, he and Addington will coordinate the menus so that beer and food pairings are the norm.
Addington added that she hopes to host “yoga on the roof” as weather allows.
As for merging the two concepts, the plan is to, according to Addington, create an environment wherein “when you walk in, it feels like one business.” That will include brightening the space with lighter colors and knocking out walls.
Together, Steele and Addington estimated, the concept will employ roughly 15 people.
Meanwhile, transforming the familiar space into its new dual-identity will be the focus, along with getting the kitchen and brewhouse in operation, and of course satisfying the legal end. While it’s just getting started, it feels to those involved like a journey that has already begun.
“For us,” Addington said, “this feels like a long time coming. In the three years since we’ve landed, Louisville has almost become a vegan mecca.”
Not to mention a city that loves its craft beer.