In mid-February, the Nest, a new barbecue restaurant and craft beer bar and lounge, opened on Cherokee Street in downtown Kennesaw , and from day one, it’s been a very busy local destination.
Originally dubbed the Thirsty Owl, the project evolved and grew over time to become a much more ambitious food and drink concept than originally planned. And now it’s situated in a pair of historic 1880s houses that were renovated and connected by walkways, with a breezeway and a large outdoor deck that serves as a beer garden in between.
Among the Nest partners, Brandon King, a former Atlanta bartender and bar manager, who owns Stout Brothers Beer Market in Smyrna and Inman Park, had the idea to join with longtime Atlanta chef Victor Amato to open a combination barbecue takeout and growler store.
But in discussions about locations with Dale Hughes, a Kennesaw business and real estate developer who specializes in historic properties, King, Amato and a third partner, Monroe Schiestel, were encouraged to think bigger.
“The more we chatted, we decided the growler store wasn’t the right thing,” King said. “Dale wanted something more lively that could be a community gathering place. So it kept evolving, from a counter service place with a stand-alone bar to what it is now — a full-on, full-service restaurant, bar and lounge that does everything for everybody.”
“We’re very happy with it,” Amato said. “It really turned into something special right out of the gate, and we’ve had great response to it. The demographic is everything from families to hipsters to retirees to people who are driving from an hour away in Atlanta.”
Amato’s menu includes starters and small plates, such as smoked wings, smoked chicken egg rolls and deviled eggs with house-cured bacon, meant to be shared while sampling from some 59 taps. The draft list includes an abundance of local, seasonal and rare beers, which are priced by the ounce, plus wine, craft soda, coffee and nitro offerings.
As for what Amato dubs “Georgia barbecue,” look for smoked ribs, chicken, pulled pork and brisket served as plates or sandwiches, with a choice of sides, and as many as 10 different sauces, ranging from Alabama white to Red Hare root beer and ghost pepper hot.
Beyond the variety found in the food and beer, the atmosphere could be called historic eclectic. The interior of the house that contains the kitchen and dining rooms is homey and kitschy Southern, while the house that contains the bar and lounge is more contemporary, with nest-shaped wire lamps suspended above the bar and a tableau of comfy couches and chairs in the lounge.
“The name the Nest is about home,” King said. “And these are old homes that we’ve designed to feel like you’re just over at your friend’s house eating some great barbecue and breaking into their beer cellar. We want that sense of home and that sense of community for everybody. ”