COOKEVILLE – After a nearly one-year hiatus from the local restaurant business, Kent Birdwell, proprietor behind Gainesboro’s former Bight of the Bend, is back.
This time, he’s bringing his signature barbecue set – and more – to Cookeville’s West Side in a new effort called The Blue Pig. The eatery/smokehouse, located at 35 W. Broad St. in a space once occupied by Thomas Andrews, will also feature an oyster bar, beer garden and more. It’s been in a soft opening phase for the last several weeks.
Birdwell, a financial analyst by trade, closed Bight of the Bend in downtown Gainesboro in December 2015 after a 25-month stint – but not for lack of rave reviews.
He said the Blue Pig will be different in many ways.
This time, there will be no reservations. “I think that hurt me before,” he said, “because people don’t expect to make reservations with barbecue.” Food will be served up first-come, first-serve. There will be a more open, laid-back feel. Add lunch and dinner options, too, versus the Bight’s limited hours each week. Initially, The Blue Pig will be open Wednesday-Sunday, but that could expand as well. Birdwell opened Bight as a way to hone the cooking skills he gained via prior world travels; he was influenced, he said, by the people he met along the way. The restaurant was a UCBJ Ovation Award winner; diners often came from as far away as Chattanooga, Knoxville and Nashville to eat.
“The concept I had was cool in Gainesboro, but it just didn’t work. Cookeville will be a little more stable as far as demand,” Birdwell said. “I’m going more casual this time. Cozy, but not too cozy. There’s a reason barbecue joints are rough and simple with hard seats.”
To the opposite effect, The Blue Pig will feature an oyster bar. “This space lends itself to that,” Birdwell said. “An oyster bar,” he added, “complements barbecue but elevates it as well.” The menu will also include dishes like steaks, crab cakes and – Bight favorites – pecan salmon and shrimp and grits. He hopes to have a beer garden open this spring.
“I just want to offer good food in a good atmosphere in Cookeville,” Birdwell said. “There’s nothing more fun than barbecue, oysters and buckets of beer – even craft root beer – so that’s the focus right now.”
He signed a 10-year lease for the space. “I think this concept is a good complement,” he said, to what’s already on the West Side, Neighbors like Seven Senses, Crawdaddy’s and Father Tom’s that are more established.
“It doesn’t compete with anybody here, but it instead complements the area,” he added. “The WestSide has a multitude of dining options. I think that’s the coolest thing that’s happening right now.
“I was done with the restaurant business, but friends said I need to give it one more shot,” Birdwell said.
The Blue Pig is located at 35 W. Broad St., Cookeville; a large public parking lot is located behind the restaurant by Debra’s Designs. For more information, call (931) 854-9970