Restaurateur Brett Davis is opening a cocktail-focused bar and bar-food restaurant called Red Herring Cocktail Lounge and Kitchen in the historic Hilltop Theater, 1757 Frankfort Ave.
Insider Louisville reported this month that Davis was planning a concept at Hilltop Theater. However, he wasn’t ready to talk about it at the time.
Now that the new restaurant is expected to open in roughly a month, Davis has revealed details about what exactly the concept will be and why he named it Red Herring.
“A red herring is any kind distraction from what is there,” Davis told IL. “We want to be a pleasant distraction.”
The service style of the restaurant will be different from the traditional. Red Herring will employ about 20 staffers in its kitchen and behind the bar. All employees will be servers.
“Service is going to be full hands-on from everybody,” Davis said. “The front and back of house will be paid the same way, and they are going to be a team.”
The person who cooks a customer’s meal may also deliver it to the table, or if the kitchen is backed up, the bartenders will serve food to different tables. Employees will split the tips.
“It’s staff driven. I am doing it because I think there is a better way of operating a restaurant than what the industry standard is,” Davis said, noting that the idea isn’t “revolutionary.”
Chef Jacob Coronado will lead the kitchen at Red Herring, curating a menu of burgers, hot dogs and “adventurous” dishes with ingredients like halibut cheeks and chicken skin, according to a news release. The dishes will be small- to medium-size plates.
“It is everything that I strive for,” Coronado told IL in an interview. “One of the big things for me is doing the right thing — whether that is locally grown food or treating the staff properly and having that camaraderie and teamwork.”
Bartender Clay Livingston will back the bar, which will feature a menu of “the 100 most influential classic cocktails,” house-crafted cocktails, a selection of frozen drinks and adult milkshakes, as well as artisanal wines and regional craft beers.
Coronado and Livingston previously worked at 8UP Elevated Drinkery & Kitchen downtown.
“I’ve worked with Clay for almost three years, and we are able to communicate very well,” Coronado said, adding that there would be plenty of interplay between the bar and kitchen menus.
Menu prices will range from $6 to $10 for cocktails and $15 or less for food. In addition to the regular menu, Red Herring will serve a “blue plate” special for less than $10, from 4 to 6 p.m., during the week.
Davis listed Holy Grale as a good example of the type of business Red Herring would like to be, where the bar and restaurant are equals.
“It’s not a restaurant with a bar, and I think it goes beyond just a bar with a small kitchen,” Davis said. “We think people will go there because they are going to crave the food, but it’s also a place where you can go have a couple of drinks.”
Davis is a partner in restaurant group Falls City Hospitality Group, which owns Doc Crow’s Southern Smokehouse & Raw Bar in Louisville and Union Common in Nashville. It also opened the now-shuttered Doc’s Cantina. So, why open another restaurant outside of the restaurant group?
“I ask myself that every day,” Davis replied with a laugh. “I’m a reluctant restaurateur, always have been.”
Multiple people had come to Hilltop Theater owner Mo Deljoo with restaurant ideas but struggled to find the right financing to make it happen, Davis said.
“Finally, I said, ‘Mo, why don’t you and I do it together?’” he said, noting that he and Deljoo already knew each other prior to becoming business partners.
Deljoo, who is a financial partner in Red Herring, already has invested more than $1 million to renovate the 112-year-old Hilltop Theater, which features 1900s crown molding, vaulted ceilings, tile floors and brick.
While the exterior is early-1900s, the interior design of Red Herring will be midcentury modern with accents of vibrant oranges, greens, blues and reds paired with grays and browns to showcase the original features. The walls will be covered in a 1950s wallpaper-inspired mural by local artist Monica Mahoney.
Red Herring will seat 100 people inside and on an outdoor patio. Its hours of operation will be 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily with food service until 1 a.m.