Sassafras, a new downtown restaurant owned by brothers Matt and Dennis Weafer, is holding a reservation-only soft opening beginning this weekend. They will continue taking reservations through next week, but do not yet know of a definite date for their grand opening.
Sassafras is located at 420 Frederica Street, which most recently housed Bill’s Restaurant. Sassafras will not be a private dining establishment once it’s fully open.
For now, reservations can be made from 4-8 p.m. on Tuesday through Saturday. To book a reservation or for, call 270-240-1888.
It took a little longer than expected to get the restaurant ready to open, but the Weafers are excited to offer something new and unique to the community.
“There have been a lot of Covid economic-related issues, such as shipping prices increasing and delays on everything,” Matt Weafer said. “However, we’ve been putting out some awesome exciting food, we’ve got a fully stocked bar, the dining room is loaded with local art, and we’ve got great staff. We’re really pumped about what we’re about to do.”
Matt said he and his brother — who each run their own local restaurants — had always talked about doing something together. Matt and his wife Jessica own Niko’s Bakery & Café, while Dennis owns Fetta Specialty Pizza.
The duo is especially proud of what their menu will offer.
“We’re going for Kentucky-themed foods,” Matt said previously. “We’re gonna put a smoker in the back. We’re gonna make charcuterie. We’re gonna do smoked meatloaf, smoked chicken and dumplings. We’ll do burgers and sandwiches. We’ll do fries and poutine. We’re talking about doing Kentucky cassoulet and succotash.”
He said there will also be a big focus on getting local meats and local produce. When it’s in season they will cook everything fresh — then pickle it, preserve it, and utilize it as much as they can throughout the year.
“We have a lot of really good ideas and we’re really excited about the food,” Matt said. “We’re definitely planning on doing something different for this town. That’s the plan, to be different. Everybody’s familiar with the dishes that we’re talking about, but we’re gonna make them exciting. That’s our plan.”
Dennis added, “We’d like to add a little bit more uniqueness to the food in Owensboro.”
The restaurant name is an homage to the Sassafras on Frederica Street, which is the largest known Sassafras tree in the world and measures over 100 feet tall and 21 feet in circumference.
“We were just trying to find something that was iconic to the area and the theme of what we’re doing,” Matt said. “We’re trying to celebrate Kentucky roots. Kentucky Appalachian food heritage is stuff we grew up on, stuff that’s been here for years. It’s native to the area. It’s native in the cuisine of the area, even though we can’t use it. But we can at least celebrate, especially for Owensboro since we’ve got the tree.”
The brothers said they will maintain their duties at their own restaurants but will also be heavily involved in Sassafras operations. Buddy McCarter will be the chef, and Jimmy Decker will be the general manager.
“We feel really confident in the team we put together, but at the end of the day we’re not hands-off people,” Matt said. “We are passionate about the food, passionate about the service, everything. So we’re going to be present.”