As the new kid on the block, Ransom Pub seeks to redefine pub community in the South, with a restaurant space that combines old with new and plenty of local music to go around.
Oh, and there are cheese fries.
Located on King Street in the spot formerly known as Murphy’s Pub, Ransom shares its building with local nonprofit Wine to Water. Doc Hendley, founder of Wine to Water and co-owner of Ransom, said the pub also shares profits with the charity, but is operated separately by outside investors.
After enduring a lengthy renovation process that began back in March, Ransom officially launched on Aug. 16 with a four day long block party. Doc Hendley said the community has welcomed them with open arms.
“The goal for us was still to retain that this is still the same people, the same concept, the same community that it was before,” Doc Hendley said. “We’ve had an overwhelming response from the community.”
Ransom’s renovated space is more than just a couple new tables and chairs. With a new dance floor and sound system, a custom bar countertop made from hickory, ambrosia and walnut wood, and even an updated kitchen hood system, the pub looks remarkably different than before.
But look carefully and you’ll notice old elements that Doc Hendley and the team kept around: the original dining area floor, dating back before World War II, and the Farm Board dish served on slabs from Murphy’s old bar countertop, dark wood sanded down smooth.
For Doc Hendley, who had his first date with his wife at Murphy’s, it was important to keep the old feel of the building while still wanting to “up the game.”
“Our dream was one day to do a full renovation and to see ‘can we do that with still keeping the old feel?’” Doc Hendley said. “And that’s a really hard thing to do, but we really wanted to serve very simple, good quality foods without it being considered quote unquote fancy.”
Ransom’s menu was revamped to include dishes like seared Ahi tuna tacos, hand-ground burgers, pizza made from slow-rise yeast dough and dry rubbed wings. The bar offers 20 wine selections, 20 draft beers and a “simple but impressive” list of spirits; for coffee lovers, the coffee bar has everything from cappuccinos to pour-overs.
Food and beverage director Joe Turner said the staff try to have fun with the menu and keep dishes fresh.
“We try and take regular bar food or pub fare and impart technique and skill and care with the product, just refining bar food,” Turner said.
Todd Hendley, general manager at Ransom, said his favorite dish changes week to week.
“The last two weeks I’ve ordered for lunch nothing but the steak and cheese sandwich. Before that, I was eating the burger,” Todd Hendley said.
Todd Hendley said the consistent crowd favorite is the cheese fries — fingerling potatoes on a bed of ranch with three-cheese sauce on top.
Ransom also offers a live music scene along with the bar food. Artists from across the area perform on Thursday nights and weekends, and tables and chairs are pushed back to make space on the dance floor. Wednesday is bluegrass night, where musicians from 9 to 75 years old jam with their banjos, mandolins and violins until 10 p.m.
Ransom’s mission is to “support the fullness of life through exceptional service.” The name comes from the idea that love and service free people to connect, regardless of who they are or what differences may exist between them.
Doc Hendley said he was inspired by pub culture in other parts of the world where pubs are the center of the community. He doesn’t see that as much here in the U.S. and wants to change that.
“When I’ve seen it happen in these communities, it’s so healthy,” Doc Hendley said. “I think we have this stigma in Bible Belt, in the South, that ‘oh, alcohol is bad,’ so any place that serves it must be bad, so therefore, if you are a person of any spiritual substance you shouldn’t bring your kids there, especially much less yourself be there. And I believe the opposite.
“I don’t think a place that I bring my wife and go have fun and go dancing until 2 in the morning can’t be the same place I bring my kids the next morning for brunch. We can do life together in all these places.”
Story by: Macon Atkinson, A&E Reporter
Photos by: Hayley Canal, Staff Photographer
Featured Photo Caption: Ransom Pub’s new location on West King Street. After moving and renovations, Ransom is now open to the public.