The Whiskey Trail BBQ & Steakhouse, 413 Wilson Ave., will be open for business early next month, according to restaurant officials.
Tullahoma’s newest steakhouse owners, Najah Ali-Kaby and Kendall Layne, said they will host their restaurant’s grand opening ceremony at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, June 8.
The business is a new venture for Ali-Kaby and Layne, who owns Route 55 BBQ & Catering, which is located in a small, cramped building right next door. Layne said he’d been looking for somewhere larger to move his business for about a year when he connected with Ali-Kaby and a third partner, James Gonzaga.
“It kind of made sense for us to team up on this,” Layne said. “It’s such a big building, and it’s nice, and where we’re at we have a lot of opportunity.”
Ali-Kaby said his finding property in Tullahoma has pure happenstance, as he was just looking for new property for a good value in a good market.
When the two connected, they realized they both had similar ideas for a restaurant and decided to partner on the venture.
Longtime residents of Tullahoma know the location of the new steakhouse is the site of the former Crockett’s Roadhouse Restaurant & Tavern, which closed nearly 10 years ago. When the tavern restaurant shuttered, the community was left without a proper steakhouse, according to Layne, and he wanted to fill that need in the city again.
Folks who remember the tavern will no doubt get a sense of déjà vu upon entering the restaurant, Layne said, as the interior builds upon the old tavern style.
While the floors have been completely refinished, they are still the same hardwood floors Crockett’s patrons would toss their peanut shells onto before their meals came.
That’s one aspect of the former business that won’t be invited back, according to Layne. Having food products on the floor lead to rodent and insect problems that he’s trying to prevent, he said.
Not everything has changed, however, as Layne even kept the taxidermy grizzly bear that was a landmark of Crockett’s.
“The bear’s still here,” he said with a laugh.
“People have so many good memories about this building,” Layne said, “and me and [my wife] Lori sat here right beside it for years wondering if we could do something with it.”
Layne said the steakhouse will still offer the barbecue favorites that the community loves from Route 55, but the menu will be expanded and include a number of locally-themed items.
“We’re bringing all of our current items with a few exceptions and doing everything the same way as we have done,” Layne said. “And we’re adding a few items to fill the market niche holes that are here.”
There will be plenty of food items for people who don’t like barbecue, Layne said, though he joked “I don’t understand those people.”
Things like chicken tenders, Philly cheesesteak sandwiches and burgers round out some restaurant staples, according to Layne.
“We’ll come up with some stuff to keep people interested,” he said.
And there will be steaks, of course.
“We’re going to do some nice steaks that taste good and aren’t chewy,” Layne said.
Layne said the restaurant is also set up to allow for live music on certain days, with a small stage at the ready and tables and booths able to be moved to make more space.
Special theme nights are also something Layne is looking into, like a Friday fish fry or chef specials throughout the week.
Playing off the new name, Layne said the partners are currently working with the state tourism board on collaborating with the Tennessee Whiskey Trail. The trail is a statewide tourism trail made up of around 30 different distilleries across the Volunteer State. Tullahoma is uniquely situated in between two stops on the trail, which is why Ali-Kaby, Gonzaga and Layne are working to get their restaurant mentioned on the website for the trail.
“We’ve been in contact with those people,” Layne said.
Part of working with the Tennessee Whiskey Trail is a partnership with local distilleries – and not just those who produce whiskey.
Some of the businesses Layne said he is currently negotiating with include Beans Creek Winery in Manchester, Lynchburg Winery and even Prichard’s Distillery outside of Fayetteville.
Independently-owned breweries and distilleries will have their spirits available both on their own and in some quirky cocktails, such as the “Ole Mary,” the Whiskey Trail’s take on a Bloody Mary. According to Layne, the drink will feature pickled okra instead of a celery stalk in the beverage, as well as some special spirits.
Tullahoma’s signature drink will also be featured for fans of George Dickel and SunDrop. Layne assured future patrons that the Dickel Drop will absolutely be on the drink menu.
All the menu items, food or drink, will remain affordable for people, according to Layne. He said one of his goals is to keep his current clientele while offering more options for more people.
“We want this to be about people – local people,” Layne said. If people on the Tennessee Whiskey Trail want to stop by, he wants to be able to show them what Tullahoma has to offer, in addition to George Dickel.
For more information and to follow the restaurant’s progress toward the grand opening, visit Whiskey Trail BBQ & Steakhouse on Facebook.
Erin McCullough may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
UPDATE: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the restaurant was an expansion of Route 55 BBQ & Catering.