The restaurant, which opened last year as a franchise of the original 12 Bones in Asheville, N.C., has dropped its franchise license and changed its name to Bone Fire Smokehouse.
While the restaurant retains many of the flavors of the former 12 Bones, it now offers new options and improved service. And it plans to expand to include an entertainment venue designed to draw more people to the downtown district.
“We don’t feel like our hands are tied. We feel like we can be as interesting, as spicy and exciting as we want to be and as the community wants us to be,” said Kanishka Biddanda.
Biddanda, Doug Beatty and Jeff Lane are business partners in Adapt CORE (Community Oriented Redevelopment Experts), a company focused on restoring old buildings to promote community and cultural renewal in the downtown area.
When they knew they wanted to drop the 12 Bones franchise and be free to expand their restaurant concept, the Adapt CORE partners put out the word to the community, asking for name suggestions for the eatery.
Biddanda said the response was overwhelming.
“Within three weeks we got more entries than we ever imagined — a total count of 563 names. And we read every single one of them,” Biddanda said.
The three partners liked several of the suggestions, but those names were already trademarked.
“That brought us back to square one,” Biddanda said.
At that point, Biddanda, Beatty and Lane sat down together and started brainstorming, tossing out words that convey how the restaurant’s food makes them feel.
“What do our customers say when they leave here — they feel warm inside, comfortable. One patron used the word cozy. Like you’re standing in front of a bonfire,” Biddanda said.
Beatty Googled the word bonfire and discovered that it’s derived from the words bone fire.
“Once we found that was the actual origin — the name was a home run for all three of us. We instantly knew — that was it,” Biddanda said.
The restaurant’s menu has also changed, led by executive chef Erich Soll, who’s headed food preparation here since the opening last year.
Biddanda said Soll has experienced with new flavors and dishes for some time, but the restaurant, under the 12 Bones licensing agreement, wasn’t able to offer those new tastes to patrons.
Now, customers will get to try a variety of new dishes and sauces, such as Bone Fire’s signature Razzle Berry Q, a raspberry habanero based sauce; its traditional Carolina sauce; a new sweet tomato-based barbecue sauce; and a new green jalapeno sauce.
Lane said the menu will still include the popular meats, such as ribs, pulled pork and chicken, turkey and brisket. But it will feature new side dishes, such as broccoli salad and purple potato salad, as well as some old favorites such as collard greens and grits. Some of the old dishes have been improved, Lane said, such as the baked beans and green beans. And special side dishes will be offered on occasion, such as creamed corn and corn on the cob.
“We realized that the flavors that were available through 12 Bones were very popular. That’s what the hook was. So in redesigning the menu, we were very careful to maintain flavor profiles that we knew people liked,” said Beatty.
Lane said the service has also changed. Before, customers simply stood in line, placed their orders, got their drinks, sauces and silverware, and sat down to wait on their food.
Now, customers will still place their orders and get their drinks, but they’ll receive full service once they’re seated, with drink refills and dessert orders.
And instead of using aluminum plates, the restaurant serves its food on bright white ceramic dishes, which retain heat longer, Lane said.
The name and menu changes are just the start at Bone Fire. Beatty has acquired the building next door with plans to establish an entertainment venue. The space will also be available for private rental for events such as parties, receptions, corporate retreats and workshops. It will accommodate about 250 people.
Beatty said the building is the original city bus garage, featuring large garage doors and a huge open space. Garage doors will be installed facing Main Street, and on clear warm days the doors will be opened for patrons to enjoy the outdoors.
Beatty said the new space will simply be known as “The Garage.” He hopes to have it ready for use sometime in November.
First, though, the building will be renovated to include a stage, bar and additional restroom facilities. And its original features, such as exposed brick and steel beams overhead, will be maintained.
“We’re really just continuing in the vein of our other investments in Kingsport, and that is providing an outlet that adds to the quality of life that we have here,” Biddanda said. “You don’t have to go to some other city in order to have a fun time with your family and friends.”
Plus, he said, The Garage will provide an alternative for individuals and businesses seeking affordable meeting space in the city.
“We’ve gotten so much feedback from our business associates about the lack of affordable banquet space in Kingsport. And once we saw the size of the space, we knew we wanted to have an events venue,” Biddanda said.
In addition to Bone Fire, Adapt CORE’s projects include the Kingsport Grocery Company on Main Street and the State Theater on Broad Street.
“All of our projects are community oriented,” Beatty said. “It’s one thing to be fixing up buildings, but the key component is being able to put feet on the street after 5 o’clock, and you do that by having entertainment venues, by having food venues, things for people to do.”
The Bone Fire Smokehouse is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week. The general manager is Nathan Call, and his assistant managers are Barbara Burnette and Brad McMurray.