On the Rocks: Fortville’s FoxGardin restaurant adds whiskey lounge


By James Feichtner

Following your dreams can be a difficult decision given the amount of risk it may entail. For former head chef of Indianapolis’ Prime 47, Jake Burgess took a big risk in leaving his head chef role to follow his dream of opening his own restaurant in his hometown of Fortville.

“Originally I was scared for everything,” Burgess said. “I had a consistent job that I had worked very hard at. I’d been there seven years so it was definitely a massive risk giving up what was known and to kind of throw it into the wind.”

Now, after nearly five months of having his restaurant FoxGardin Kitchen and Ale, a rustic Americana-infused eatery encouraging local ingredients in its fine cuisine, Burgess has had quite the success in his endeavors.

But Burgess wasn’t finished quite yet. In fact, Burgess and FoxGardin General Manager Toby Shelton decided to amplify FoxGardin even more by opening a whiskey lounge in the vacant upstairs space above the restaurant.

“What we’re trying to do with upstairs is kind of give another vibe or different opportunity to capitalize on a different market or please our guests to a different degree,” Burgess said.

The original building the restaurant was installed into was already well on its way to the atmosphere Burgess and Shelton were looking for, but the space upstairs was what they considered “a blank canvas.”

“When we took on the restaurant we inherited a building that was worn and we took on to that,” Shelton said. “From what we were looking to do and our themes; it played right into that. (Upstairs) was a blank slate so it was kind of a brand new toy that we got to play with so we got to do things that we’ve always kind of wanted to do. We all like bourbon, those types of things, so it really became something that reflects who we are a little bit even more.”

Burgess describes the lounge as having a more “intimate setting.” Keeping the theme local like their ingredients, the lounge features native antiques from the Fortville area lining the walls with wooden accents and smooth sanded shelves, some decades old, also from local buildings. The lounge will have an ample selection of fine bourbons and whiskeys with a few select bottles of other spirits.

Burgess said originally the lounge was conceptualized to provide room for overflow for the restaurant but eventually grew based on customer feedback.

“If there was an hour wait you could chill upstairs,” Burgess said. “More and more with the response that I’ve gotten it became more than that. It will be small plates and pairing with the wines and whiskies, but still using the same fresh ingredients.”

“Coming (upstairs) even with the clientele and the guests that we have downstairs, just starting to mention this (concept) to them, as soon as we said, ‘Whiskey, bourbon, kind of an Americana-focus,’ it just kind of clicked and we could see in their faces that they were excited, so I think that’s kind of what we built off of as well,” FoxGardin Bar Manager Caitlyn Richardson said.

What’s remarkable is Burgess’ drive to get things done quickly. For the restaurant portion, FoxGardin’s construction was completed and ready to open in only 17 days. For the whiskey lounge, a mere 15 days was all it took.

“My contractors think I’m crazy when I (said) we’re opening in two weeks,” Burgess said. “I’m pretty aggressive in the time tables. That’s why you see me up there sweeping and painting and cleaning and doing whatever it takes because I want my contractors and staff to see that I’m involved.”

As if keeping the theme and ingredients of FoxGardin local wasn’t enough, Burgess was also adamant about hiring local work for the construction of the lounge.

“I try to be as local as possible in my ingredients and my food so why not translate that into contractors,” Burgess said. “That’s what I did. I found some customers that hang out here and we’d become close just in the last six months and I asked if they wanted to be a part of this. We promote local so why not do it throughout the whole process.”

FoxGardin Kitchen and Ale is located at 215 S. Main St. in Fortville. For more info, visit http://www.foxgardin.com/