Whatever you do, don’t call it a gastropub.
“It’s not a gastropub. It’s not a farm-to-table,” Keg & Kitchen (formerly Cork) owner Kevin Meeker tells me over the phone. “Every night there will be a special. Everything will be fresh. I want to use ‘craft’ because I hate terms like ‘gastropub’ and ‘farm-to-table.'”
“Craft” it is, then. Meeker, also of Q BBQ & Tequila in Old City, is doing something special at Keg & Kitchen, the newly renovated pub taking over where his old spot, , sat for the last seven years on Haddon Avenue in Westmont. With Keg & Kitchen, Meeker is taking a step back from the upscale refinement that was Cork and going with a concept that he felt would be “more open to the neighborhood.”
“We’re really serious about food,” he told me. “We’re not changing the food quality. Everything here is built on craftsmanship.”
Indeed. One of the foundations Keg & Kitchen is being built upon is freshness and a “go green” mentality, and it begins with the renovations. If you take a peek around the restaurant right now, there isn’t a dumpster in sight. That’s because nearly all of the renovations being done are recycled from Cork, and any additions are to the restaurant are recycled as well. The walls are recycled redwood from office buildings in Philadelphia. The lighting fixtures are recycled plumbing fixtures being built by Philadelphia artist John Fesko.
A 16-foot center table is currently being constructed from a black walnut tree that was purchased after it fell. The remains of the tree will be donated to build furniture. All of the work is being done by David Dowling, whose recent projects include Stephen Starr’s Frankford Hall and Top Chef winner Kevin Sbraga’s new location Sbraga on South Broad in Philadelphia.
The menu at Keg & Kitchen, Meeker assures me, will be similar to what was available at Cork, which can best be described as affordable gourmet comfort food. When he explained his concept to me, it sounded like a challenge from Top Chef: Take your favorite food growing up, and remake it with a gourmet twist. Think pork and beans with braised pork shoulder, or a meatball sandwich transformed into sliders of duck, beef and pork. The menu, currently being constructed with the aid of renowned local chef and A Chef’s Table host Jim Coleman, is going to change as often as the kitchen finds inspiration.
One of the highlights of Keg & Kitchen will be its focus on the bar. Nestled in Westmont, between dry towns Haddonfield and Collingswood, Keg & Kitchen will use its location to take advantage of what Meeker sees as a grievous omission to the area: a good old-fashioned beer pub.
“We’ll likely have the biggest beer selection in South Jersey,” he says. “Our draft beers will be rotated as frequently as we can. I’ve teamed up with a couple of West Coast and Mid West breweries to enhance our beer selection.”
In addition to what Meeker hopes will soon be over 100 available beers, Keg & Kitchen wants to present itself as the kind of bar one seeks out looking for an Old Fashioned, rather than a Cosmopolitan. A wide variety of dark liquors, rye whiskeys, Irish whiskeys, etc will be available. All drinks will be stirred. Mixers, bitters, and all other drink components will be made in house.
So what exactly is Keg & Kitchen? Meeker can’t settle on a specific definition, but describes his vision as the old English idea of a pub, the kind of place a guy can take his family without feeling out of place, where people go to enjoy a drink but don't need to get drunk. Old school in the new age.
Keg & Kitchen is scheduled to officially launch March 5, so keep your eyes open. As a beer enthusiast, I’m excited to see Kevin Meeker’s vision come to life.
Just please don’t call it a gastropub.
- Stay tuned for my Collingswood Restaurant Week preview in two weeks!
(Have some restaurant news from the Collingswood/Haddonfield area? Want to see your favorite restaurant profiled in this column? Email David Valiante at firstname.lastname@example.org.)