Downtown Brunswick is all about mingling the old with the new. There are plans to create new waterfront attractions and buoy businesses along with rows of buildings constructed in the 1800s.
The blend is certainly a part of the city’s charm and the same can be said for the businesses themselves — they artfully mix the modern with features of yesteryear.
In fact, a new restaurant has made it a focal point.
Strong Roots Provisions, located at 1618 Newcastle St., brings a hip new vibe to historic downtown. Opened since July 6, the space features handmade wooden tables and a wall of greenery sconces compliment the building’s original ceilings and architectural features.
But embracing the past goes even further, noted Chris Gantt, mixologist who has partnered with Chef Matthew Raiford to create Strong Roots Provisions.
“We are working on finishing up the speak easy part back here,” he said, gesturing to a wall at one side of the dining room. “We should have it open in three weeks.”
Behind the bookcase guise, one steps into a larger room with a 1920s vibe.
“I think it’s just really unique and it’s something that will really stand out,” Gantt said.
Of course, the food and drink will also be a draw.
“Strong Roots is definitely a port city restaurant and is a true craft cocktail bar, which speaks volumes just like the food.
“It is very cutting edge. Chef Matthew and myself are very cutting edge with cocktails and the food. But in the back, we will have our speakeasy. It will be very prohibition style, from the password to get in to the dress.”
Gantt is currently creating the fall menu and is making sure to include items the reflect the seasonal shift as well as highlight local resources. Much of the food comes directly from Raiford’s farm or others nearby.
The drinks also feature local flavor. While some of those are still in the works, the menu will include offerings titled Blood and Sand or the Brunswick Stew.
And, of course, the restaurant’s popular take on the Old Fashioned. The current incarnation heavily features peach with the fall take going a little darker.
“For the fall menu, we will do a Chilean chocolate infused whiskey so it will be a darker Old Fashioned with allspice bitters over ice sphere with orange zest. But this orange zest is covered in dark chocolate which is edible,” he said.
The recipe is said to have first appeared in the 1880s in Louisville, Ky., and includes bourbon, bitters, water and sugar.
Gantt’s take also includes orange and smoked cherry wood.
“It really changes the flavor of the bourbon to give it that smoky, camp fire flavor. Then the orange gives it the botanical feel,” he said.
To begin, he readies his smoker, inserting cherry wood. Then, he grabs his bourbon, bitters and ice.
“We are going to do two ounces of straight bourbon. Three dashes of our house blood orange bitters,” he said. “We add about two bar spoons of peach shrub (a sugar and water mixture) from Sage’s Larder then we add orange zest and pour it over an ice sphere.”
After stirring the mixture well, roughly 25 times, Gantt places it in the smoker for the finishing touch.
“You want to stir until the consistency isn’t too diluted but it turns a nice peach color. You only leave it in for 20 seconds or so,” he said, covering the drink with glass and watching it fill with smoke. “I have a concrete smoker with glass sides being built right now. You can do six drinks at one time.”
Strong Roots Provisions’ Old Fashioned
Two ounces of bourbon
Two Dashes of blood orange bitters
Quarter ounce (two bar spoons) Sage’s Larder Peach Shrub
Two ounces of bourbon
Cherry wood if using a smoker
Directions: Combine the bourbon, bitters and shrub in a glass over ice. Garnish with orange zest and place in a smoker, which can be purchased online, for 20 seconds.