Coming Soon: Bar No. 308 in East Nashville



East Nashvillians have started to buzz a bit about the new establishment going in at 407 Gallatin Ave. between the Sherwin-Williams store and Dino's Bar & Grill. Peeking through the large front window is only marginally revealing, since a vestibule hides much of the interior. But in the interest of journalistic excellence, I managed to get inside the construction zone (sans hardhat, no less) to get the scoop for you lucky Bites readers.

No. 308 is the brainchild of Alexis Soler and Ben Clemons, two longtime bar professionals whose mutual backstory lends a lot of charm to the venture. Not only are they dedicated and attractive, but they are in love with each other and their new concept of a "utilitarian bar for East Nashville." After years of separate careers tending bar in New York City and Miami, Ben and Alexis met at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans in 2009, where a mutual friend suggested that they share a room together to save expenses.

Their shared love of classic cocktails blossomed into a passionate desire to come together to open their dream bar/restaurant, and a month after their first meeting Alexis proposed to Ben in Room 308 of the Ace Hotel in Manhattan. Hence the name of their new project, which they now both wear proudly in ink on their bodies. That's commitment!

After years of opening bars and designing menus for other people, Ben and Alexis decided to seek out their own investors and open their own place in Alexis' new home, Nashville, where she is a liquor rep for St. Germain. After Ben moved to town, the couple became entranced with East Nashville and found a funky location on Craigslist.

No. 308 will be an age 21-and-over establishment with a patio for smokers, but they hope customers feel comfortable occupying a bar stool for a long time. With no velvet rope or secret knock, the owners plan to present cocktails made with care at affordable prices as well as gladly serving a beer or a glass of wine. Don't be afraid to order a drink with just two ingredients, either. In fact, they anticipate that their George Dickel-based whiskey and ginger will become one of their signature cocktails.

Another feature will be their Ramos Gin Fizz, but don't expect to hear the whirr of any blenders. If you're the open-minded type, you may get the chance to finish the cocktail shaking yourself and pour your own if the bar gets busy. Alexis and Ben will be the primary bartenders without much in the way of server help, since they hope patrons will come to the bar for refills and allow the two hosts to meet and interact with everyone.

A menu of tapas and hearty bar food will be served out of a full kitchen in the back of the building. There will be a full-time runner to bring your meals to your table or the bar.

The casual, sexy decor features a raised bar serving as an altar of liquor that dominates the room. Several intimate booths will ring the room, and a dramatic addition will draw your attention to the back of the room. I'm not at liberty to tell you exactly what that feature will be, but you'll want to go see it yourself.

The couple had hoped to open on Nov. 4 (the 308th day of the year), but construction never finishes on time. Now the opening date looks more like mid- to late November, but it'll be worth the wait. Besides, if Alexis and Ben can put off their wedding date until after the opening, then surely we can all cool our jets a little while longer.

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