Fullsteam Brewery, Durham’s beloved beer hall and gathering place, will be adding a kitchen that will be run by chef Kyle McKnight, most recently of Highland Avenue Restaurant in Hickory.
Sean Lilly Wilson, owner of Fullsteam, said Tuesday morning that he hopes to have the first phase of the kitchen open by the brewery’s seventh anniversary in August. The brewery’s kitchen will offer “bar snacks with a Southern spin,” made with local, seasonal ingredients; savory hand pies available with sides or not; and a play on a meat-and-three meal served on worker cafeteria trays (diners can choose a protein, hand pie and sides.)
Adding a kitchen pairs a brewery known for using seasonal Southern ingredients, including figs and persimmons, to make beer with a chef known for his farm-to-table fare.
Most people are probably asking: Will this mean a change for patrons accustomed to ordering off food trucks parked outside the brewery or being able to bring their own food to enjoy with a pint?
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“Ultimately, yes,” Wilson explained.
However, it will be a gradual transition. For the first four to six months after the kitchen opens, when McKnight is only offering bar snacks, Wilson said, food trucks will still be parked outside.
After that, Wilson said, they will work with their regular trucks to find new spots for them. Wilson noted that he is proud of the dozen or so food trucks and bikes that have used their regular presence at the brewery to grow into successful businesses with brick-and-mortar locations, including Cocoa Cinnamon, Pie Pushers and The Parlour.
Wilson said if he continued allowing food trucks to park outside after the kitchen is in full swing, both would suffer. Wilson said he believes that his business has missed an opportunity to tell the story about how well their Southern-ingredient-focused beers pair with Southern food and this is their chance.
To do that, Wilson tapped McKnight, a graduate of Johnson and Wales University who cooked in kitchens in Europe, the Caribbean, Argentina, Charleston, S.C., and Miami before landing in Hickory. He was executive chef and co-owner of Highland Avenue Restaurant. Wilson and McKnight met when both won Good Foods Awards in 2013 for their beers and charcuterie.