Food & Drink

Wye Hill Kitchen opens this week, breathing new life into Boylan Bridge Brewpub

It’s a new era for Raleigh’s picture-perfect drinking spot. The new Wye Hill Kitchen is now open in the former Boylan Bridge Brewpub.

The new owners, husband and wife Chris Borreson and Sara Abernethy, will hold a grand opening Wednesday, June 12.

Boylan Bridge Brewpub, one of Raleigh’s first microbreweries and brewpubs, closed last month after a decade of service. Wye Hill opens with a freshened-up look, new paint job and seating and a completely different menu and food concept. The beers are new, the vibe is different, but the view is the same, the owner said.

“This one venue really spoke to us,” Borreson said in a phone interview. “Running a restaurant was always kind of a big sky idea; we never really wanted to open one until we found this. We saw the space and we had to do it.... It’s been magical watching this all come together.”

Borreson and Abernethy bought Boylan Bridge Brewpub last year from original owner Andrew Leager. They said they got the itch to open a restaurant after falling in love hosting parties at their home.

Wye Hill’s kitchen will be run by Kyle Fletcher, previously of bu.ku Wake Forest and Standard Foods, with new beers from brewer Brad Wynn, formerly of Big Boss Brewing. Bobby McFarland, previously of Royale and Cafe Lucarne and currently part of Snap Pea Underground, put together the new menu.

“It’s chef-driven bar food,” said Abernethy, mentioning a new shared plate of mushrooms with garlic honey on the restaurant’s menu.

The restaurant is vegan- and vegetarian-friendly, likely more than most brewpubs.. A sample menu for this summer includes bar snacks that are almost all vegetarian, including fried pickled okra, sauteed snap peas, rosemary chipotle fries and cauliflower hummus.

Omnivores will find plenty of meat dishes among the entrees, including steaks, shrimp and grits, pork chops, but also an entirely vegan double Impossible burger.

“Basically this is a menu I would eat every single day,” Borreson said. “These are all of my favorite dishes.”

Leager opened Boylan in 2009, bringing with it a view that launched a million selfies. It was something of a pioneer in a city now brimming with independent brewers.

But a freak structural collapse in 2016 kept it closed for more than a year. It briefly reopened last summer, and Borreson and Abernethy bought it last fall.

A website for Wye Hill is at wyehill.com. The Facebook page is showcasing photos of new dishes at facebook.com/WyeHillKitchen.

The new owners announced the closing last month on the Boylan Facebook page.

“Boylan Bridge Brewpub has had the honor to serve the Raleigh community for the past decade, and we want to give a HUGE thank you to all of you who have supported Boylan over the years,” the owners wrote in a Facebook post. “Those of you who had your first date here, met your spouse here, celebrated a milestone or a birthday with loved ones - please come share your stories with us this week! We know they are plentiful.”

Boylan Bridge owner plans

Leager started a machine shop in the downstairs part of the building in 2005 and then opened the brewpub four years later, he said.

“I had been homebrewing for 10 years when I thought, ‘Why lease this out when I could open it myself and have the benefit of two businesses?’” Leager said by phone Thursday morning.

When a water leak led to the 2016 wall collapse, Leager had plans to add a distillery to the operation, but he said the incident and recovery was too great of a financial blow. Now with Boylan Bridge Brewpub sold and poised to rebrand, Leager said he will remain in his downstairs shop, now as a place to build whiskey barrels.

BOYLANBREWPUB2-FE-061616-JE
Boylan Bridge Brewpub founder Andrew Leager stands in the 8,000-square-foot woodworking shop in the basement below on Thursday, June 16, 2016, where he plans to bring in two new businesses: a distillery and a barrel-making operation. Juli Leonard jleonard@newsobserver.com

In 2009 when the bar opened, it was somewhat off the beaten path in downtown Raleigh. Now, with buildings like The Dillon and the renovated Union Station in the Warehouse District, development has reached the brewpub.

“The waves are lapping at our feet,” Leager said. “I don’t have any regrets. Everything is in the future for me. Ten years in the brewpub business is enough for any stout human being. I’m glad to be finished with it. I’ll let them do what they can do.”

Borreson and Abernethy said they’re happy to carry the torch, that Boylan Bridge Brewpub may have run its course, but that it helped pave the way for Wye Hill today.

“It’s no secret that Raleigh is rapidly changing and evolving,” Borreson said. “(Wye Hill Kitchen) has always been about intention. It’s just a coat of paint and some new furniture, but we looked at every detail, making sure the flow matched the energy. A lot of work went into the design of this thing. You come here, you’re not in the same spot.”

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