After meeting through playing in bands and working in the culinary field together, Nick Howell and Brandon Johnson decided to open up The Brass Kettle, a gastropub in thriving downtown Aberdeen, in June of 2015.
“We decided one day that we were tired of having bosses,” said Howell. “I had 20-plus years of experience in the culinary industry. We just collaborated together and came up with a bunch of ideas and wanted to bring something new and fresh to Aberdeen.”
Howell saw a need for something fresh in the area, and although he had lived in Minneapolis and Portland previously and worked in famous restaurants there, he decided to keep the business in his hometown.
“It’s higher-end food in a more affordable setting.”
“I learned a lot of really cool cooking techniques and brought them back home. We wanted to grow something here because a lot of the restaurants locally have pretty much the same menu everywhere you go,” he said. “We wanted to appeal to a larger audience or give people an experience that was a little more exotic so they don’t feel like they’re in Aberdeen.”
Howell said he was excited to help revitalize the downtown community, which he said changed since he was younger.
“When I was a kid, downtown was really thriving, and it seemed like over the years, it just kind of diminished and was not as popular,” he said. “We were bringing more businesses and more people downtown who hadn’t been there over the last several years.”
Over one unfortunate New Year’s Eve, the sprinkler system went off at The Brass Kettle overnight while the restaurant was closed up, flooding the restaurant several inches deep. Despite the odds, Howell was determined to stay in business, and the restaurant received some local support.
“The community all wanted us to stay. They didn’t want to see us disappear because we were doing so many new things,” said Howell. “It was a nightmare that turned out to be a blessing in disguise.”
In the meantime during the remodel, Howell decided to open up their food truck for the seven months they were out of business. The food truck had mostly been used in the summertime at the Brown County Fair before that.
“We had to try to find a way to stay alive in the community so people wouldn’t forget about us,” he said. “We opened our food truck back up, and that really worked out.”
The Brass Kettle recently signed a contract to be the official food sponsor of the Hot Shot baseball team, Howell said, so they will be at all of their home games this summer.
The restaurant is known as a “gastropub,” which Howell said means five-star food for affordable prices. They also get all of their produce from the local farmers’ market in the summer.
“[It’s] taking some of those higher-end foods and making them more affordable, and offering them in more of a pub-style setting,” he said.
“We bake everything from scratch here.”
Some of his favorite items on the menu are the Brisket Mac and Cheese, Thai Salmon, Bourbon Sirloin Risotto, and the Duck Breast Ramen. USA Today even featured their ramen in an article.
“We don’t try to specialize in one style of cuisine,” he said. “We do French, Italian, Asian, American, a little bit of everything.”
Besides the food, Johnson bakes everything from scratch, including homemade brioche, focaccia bread, Cuban-style bread, dinner rolls, burger buns, baked cheesecake, and chocolate cakes. They are also one of the only restaurants in Aberdeen with an authentic wood-fired oven.
“There’s many years between [Johnson and me]. We have 30-some years of experience between us,” said Howell. “We never want to become complacent, we’re just constantly learning how to be better at what we’re doing, and keep trying to reach success by being the best we can possibly be.”
The Brass Kettle is open Tuesday through Friday 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. and 5-10 p.m., and on Saturdays 5-10 p.m. For more information, visit thebrasskettle.com.
THE MENU AT A GLANCE
Chorizo Scotched Eggs
Soft-boiled egg, house-made chorizo sausage, breaded and deep-fried, served with sundried tomato aioli.
Two hand-breaded loaded mashed potato balls fried golden.
Braised Beef Backrib
Slow-roasted boneless short rib, cooked in a tomato and brown ale pan sauce. Served on top of parsnip mashed potatoes.
Pork Osso Bucco
Large braised pork shank, cooked in pinot wine reduction sauce. Served with a potato parsnip mash and seasonal vegetables.
Grilled zucchini, layered with sauteed mushrooms, roasted garlic, tomato, shallot, roasted red peppers, spinach, provolone, and Gouda cheese, with a warm parmesan Mornay sauce.
Duck Breast Ramen
Tender duck breast, homemade ramen noodles, pickled radish, quick pickle slaw, ginger scallion sauce, stir fry vegetables, and egg.
Fresh ground steak patty, with a mushroom Marsala wine sauce, provolone cheese, served on a toasted house bun.