When I visited the Sexton earlier this week, the owners handed me a postcard. On one side was a vintage photograph of owner Amber Sexton’s extended family members. On the other, the following description: “serv[ing] small-plate Southern comfort food beside thick fingers of bourbon, several hands of well-pours, and/or whatever else you’re drinking, on tables of our own making, to music of our own liking, near bout the night’s backside.”
Yep, that just about sums up the bar (or is it a restaurant?) that’s been coming together in the former location of Madame K’s at 5327 Ballard Ave NW. Sexton, her husband Ryan Davidson, and partner Brandon Cook, have transformed the former bordello-themed pizza den into a space both rough-hewn and ornate, and also incredibly personal.
Nearly a year after its owners took over the space, the Sexton is planning a quiet opening early next week, with an official grand opening next Friday, December 16. The space has the makings of a stellar addition to a neighborhood already bursting with great spots.
Though there will be bourbon pours aplenty, you won’t want to pass up the Sexton’s craft cocktail menu, especially since it’s the creation of Marley Tomic-Beard, most recently at Golden Beetle, and previously at Spur and Bathtub Gin. She has fashioned a Southern-tinged cocktail list that includes a rotating seasonal julep and the double bind, made with bourbon, a sage lemon shrub, and ginger beer. If you’re seeking a little smoke, another creation planned for the list will be composed of tequila, Campari, sweet vermouth, and mezcal.
Though Tomic-Beard brings some major craft cocktail bona fides, she and the owners hasten to say that the Sexton should also be a destination for drinkers seeking a shot and a beer or other straightforward libations.
As for food, the restaurant (or is it a bar?) will serve a playful Southern menu, according to Sexton and Davidson. The term “comfort food” is teetering on the brink of overused, but how else does one describe hush puppies, pork chops, fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, and a five-cheese mac and cheese made with bacon roux? Prices range from $3 to $13.
Davidson, who managed the kitchen at the Matador for the past three years, will be doing the cooking. He’s also a musician, as evidenced by the dismantled guitar that graces the kitchen doors, the four-track player that sports antlers over the bar, and the bar itself: a cunning compilation of old white cassette tapes that somehow looks just right with all the weathered wood. The Southern influence was inspired by Sexton’s family, which is rooted in Tennessee, Arkansas and Oklahoma, and also featured in old photographs that hang on the walls.
The Sexton will be open from 5pm till 2am every day but Monday, and will be 21 and over. The ample back patio space also holds great promise for the summer months. Check out the slide show for some in-progress photos that the Sexton team shared with me.