Chicago steakhouse meets central Texas barbecue meets the Golden Age of American cocktails.
That’s what’s inside Whiskey Inferno, a new, proposed restaurant with plans to open doors in Savage by the end of the year.
Savage resident and restaurateur Tony Donatell moved quickly to nab the former Applebee’s building, located at the northeast corner of Highway 13 South and South Park Drive, when it became vacant earlier this year.
Whiskey Inferno will keep the southern smokehouse favorites of Farmington-based Bourbon Butcher Kitchen + Bar — a “rustic-chic” burger and barbecue joint owned by Donatell and his wife, Rheata — while branching off into steakhouse offerings.
Appetizers include bacon-infused seared scallops, pork belly confit with burnt apple gastrique and duck tacos with charred mango salsa.
Steaks will be dry-aged on site and customers will be given a choice of size for most cuts of meat on the menu. Steaks will include a tomahawk ribeye, filet mignon, New York strip, wagyu and whiskey-braised short rib.
Sides include smoked Gouda mac and cheese, burnt ends baked beans and smoked blue cheese and caramelized onion mashed potatoes.
Central Texas smokehouse favorites will include smoked ribs, pulled pork and thick-cut brisket.
Cocktails will tip a hat to the history of Savage and the golden age of cocktails from 1860 to 1910, Donatell said. The cocktail menu will put a spin on favorites from the era, such as a Manhattan, Bee’s Knees and Old Fashioned.
Donatell’s sons Colten, 10, and Rowan, 6, also had a say in the menu, leading to a partnership with their favorite local business — Eileen’s Colossal Cookies, which will provide cookies to go along with kids’ meals.
“We want to be a part of the community,” he said about bringing another small business on board.
Donatell said he hopes to bring a little bit of everything to Whiskey Inferno, whether it’s a place for family meals, a place to enjoy a sports game, a place for a special occasion or somewhere to spend a night with friends trying out different whiskeys.
“We want something that’s not overly-complicated and pretentious,” he said. “We don’t want to do white table cloths.”
Replicating the patio at Bourbon Butcher, Whiskey Inferno is proposed to have an outdoor patio space that’s open 12 months a year. Thanks to a large gas fire-pit, fire-top tables and infrared overhead heaters, customers can bundle up and enjoy drinks of the patio all year long.
Donatell said that mixing high-top tables with cozy booths and creating a subtle separation between the bar and dining area will allow customers to have whatever dining experience they are looking for.
“There’s not really a steak or barbecue place anywhere down here,” he said. “We are wanting to compliment what’s already here in Savage.”
Plans are clipping along and a public hearing will be held at the Savage City Council Meeting at 7 p.m. Sept. 4.
Donatell dove into the restaurant business a decade ago, when he and his wife, Rheata, purchased a Shell/Oasis Market gas station and convenience store in Eagan. They reinvented the convenience store menu and opened a full-service diner called Farmer’s Grandson Eatery. The diner is a popular spot with the breakfast and lunch crowd, and when the retail space nextdoor became available, they saw an opportunity to keep the kitchen busy through the evening. They opened Burgers and Bottles and eventually an adjoining speakeasy-style cocktail lounge in the back, Volstead House.
In 2016, Donatell opened Bourbon Butcher. It’s not just about the menu though — Bourbon Butcher features arcade games, live music seven days a week, and Whiskey Lockers — exclusive lockers with name plates that can be customized to store whiskey. This membership program also offers access to VIP, no-wait seating, discounts on whiskey cocktails and invites to special events and tastings. The Whiskey Lockers took off and Donatell plans to carry the idea over to Whiskey Inferno.
“Each time we open something we take what we know and we add something new,” Donatell said.