There's a whisper in the wind that you hear upon taking Exit 156A onto Bass Pro Drive, and it increases in intensity as the archway entrance to the namesake monolith rises on the horizon. It flutters about as you read signs advertising a coming 30,000-square-foot firearm range, and almost reveals itself when you pull up to Bourbon Brothers, a gorgeous Southern-style kitchen that will soon be joined next door by its own Southern-style chophouse.
Flowing across the often-breezy parking lot, it reaches the deck; streams past the coterie of black rocking chairs; and finally wraps itself around your ears.
"Git 'er done," it murmurs. "Git 'er done."
I joke, but there's a palpable attempt in the Copper Ridge at Northgate development to capitalize on the culture around Bass Pro Shops. And while there's nothing wrong with making a buck, the hungry consumer is probably hoping the restaurant is more focused on executing food than intaking funds.
Yet on bourbonbrothers.com, two of three homepage links promote investing in the business and opening a franchise of your own. It's fair to say that this is because the URL serves as a home for the publicly traded, Colorado Springs-based Bourbon Brothers Holding Corporation, which also owns Denver's Southern Hospitality. But there's little comfort for the family of four who reads an annual filing — stock symbol: "RIBS" — that says, "Our objective is to grow our business and increase shareholder value primarily by (i) establishing and then expanding our base of restaurants that are profitable; and (ii) once established, increasing sales at existing restaurants."
It's got the look
Ultimately, all of the above would be moot if the place delivered where it mattered. For us, across two visits and $215 in food and drink, it largely didn't.
Bourbon Brothers does deliver a beautiful dining room that smells like a model home and comes full of exposed brick, plush black leather, and homey cupboards stacked with wine bottles. One exquisite bar is ringed with red leather chairs, while the "Bourbon Room" surrounds you with barrels and these dazzling, twisty ceiling lights that glow like Seussian train lanterns.
Taken together, the building's a nice spot to sip on the restaurant's locally unrivaled list of 130 or so bourbons and whiskeys (see "Barrel roll," cover story, Jan. 22), but, warning, there are some bizarre misses on that cocktail list.
For instance, someone ordering a classically made Old Fashioned will expect a mix of bourbon and bitters, with a little sugar and water, on the rocks with a twist. Often lovingly called the ur-cocktail, it deepens into bold complexity as the liquids meld. Bourbon Brothers' interpretation, the Down South Old Fashioned ($9), is like a wine cooler for high-schoolers. Maker's Mark meets soda water, agave syrup and an excess of fruit: muddled oranges and maraschino cherries and lemon juice and lime juice. It's a watery mess. For some reason, the house Sazerac ($6.50) substitutes Jäger for the traditional absinthe wash, leading to a decent drink that sits on your tongue like a powdery NECCO Wafer.
Stick to some OK options, like the Bardstown Margarita ($8.50) made with 1792 or the Millionaire's Mint Julep ($15).
Roll the dice
Our lunch almost uniformly suffered from heating problems. The open-faced Kentucky Hot Brown ($11) sandwich on Texas toast came drowned in an inedible, wrinkled and lukewarm Mornay sauce. Good bacon green beans accompanied the under-seasoned fried chicken ($12), but the whole plate was merely temperate. Same for the Maker's Mark Mac & Cheese ($10.50), which was otherwise smoky and delicious.
Only a basket of ham hushpuppies ($4), and the Southern cannoli that is the Creole Crawfish Eggrolls ($13.50) felt worth the price of admission.
Dinner turned it around some, except for a bowl of over-salted gumbo ($7) with chunks of floury roux. In fact, the half-rack of ribs ($14.50) was incredible. Covered in a sticky, sweet sauce, each deeply smoky bite pulled cleanly away from the bone. Barbecue chicken ($12) hung strong, though with soggy skin; the seafood platter ($18) did fried catfish, meat-filled crab cakes and shrimp in a clean, juicy way. (Add wet wipes to the stock room, please.)
All together, the experiences fluctuated like an active stock. The sweet-potato white chocolate pie ($7) was more like a frozen pumpkin pie, while the piece of pecan ($6) was decadent. Our server at lunch was enthusiastic yet distracted, misidentifying food and banging a full glass of water onto the table and walking away, while our server at night was flawlessly attentive.
Maybe we should have asked her to whisper a message to management: Whether or not a restaurant delivers on the investment, it should definitely deliver on the vittles. Just git 'er done.