Kristian Niemi might hail from Minneapolis, but his soul is Southern. Case in point: His restaurant, opening Monday, April 28, is named Bourbon, is located on Columbia, South Carolina’s now-bustling Main Street, and boasts the largest bourbon selection in Columbia. Kristian is ambitious — he aims to grow the selection to be one of the largest in the U.S. Oh, and Bourbon serves homemade Cajun-Creole fare like boudin and andouille sausage. Not quite the lutefisk of the upper Midwest.
The 1,800 square foot restaurant occupies the historic Brennan Building on Main Street. Since 1864, the building has been home to many things, among them a saloon, billiard hall, and even a boarding house. “I walked in, saw the space and was immediately drawn to it,” says Kristian. “There were some rough walls still in there, covered in the years of plaster and paint and scraped-off wallpaper paste. We just left it as is, because you can never replicate that.”
Presently, the bar features 100 types of bourbon, but Kristian hopes to reach 200 soon enough, with plans to top out at 250.
What You’re Drinking
Kick things off with a Hurricane, a nod to Bourbon Street’s dangerous elixir. But instead of mixing well liquors and a packaged mix, Bourbon’s version includes High West Bourbon, Dark Quarter Distillery white whiskey, passion fruit vinegar, orange juice, and grenadine. Might not be on Bourbon Street, but Kristian says, “It’s about four ounces of booze, so it’ll kick your …”
Kristian and a friend love old spaghetti westerns, trading obscure ones in a quest for the ultimate flick. So Kristian named a drink after one of his favorites, A Pistol for Ringo. It’s an unusual mix of Bulleit Bourbon, Ramazzotti Amaro, Meyer Lemon Juice, and chocolate-infused house bitters. “You get the sweetness of the bourbon and the bitterness of the Amaro,” Kristian says. “It’s a good drink for people being introduced to Amaro.”
Bourbon, Bourbon, Bourbon
Maybe you’re a no-frills kind of bourbon drinker. If that’s the case, you really can’t go wrong at a joint called Bourbon. When raiding his own bar, Kristian goes with Old Forester Birthday Bourbon. If he wants something a little stronger, he pulls out the George T. Stagg (and presumably shouts, “Play it once, Sam.”).
What You’re Eating
The kitchen’s helmed by Chef Gordon Langston, who comes from Charleston’s Fat Hen. Kristian says he chose Cajun-Creole because of its pairing with bourbon but also mentioned that his “wife’s office is directly across the street, and those are probably her two favorite food types, creole and cajun.” And with a dedicated beignet fryer, 20% chicory coffee from Columbia’s Immaculate Consumption, and dishes like house-made fried boudin, it’s hard to think she won’t be satisfied.
Here’s proof. You could have the Bourbon Lacquered Pork Belly Po’Boy with Crystal Hot Sauce-spiked blue cheese slaw for lunch, the Grilled Manchester Farms Quail with Wil-Moore Chicken Livers and house-made Andouille for dinner, drink until late in the evening, and finish the night off with fried boudin balls and creole pimento cheese with sweet peppadew peppers.
Bourbon opens Monday, April 28, 2014. 1214 Main St., Columbia, South Carolina 29201; bourboncolumbia.com; 803/403-1404