5 Questions With: Sara Abernethy and Chris Borreson of Wye Hill Kitchen + Brewing

Credit: Felicia Perry Trujillo of Food Seen

As told to Sasha Schroeder

Wye Hill Kitchen + Brewing opened last weekend with everything from small plates to specialty beers. After much anticipation, Sara Abernethy and Chris Borreson opened the restaurant and brewery in Boylan Bridge Brewpub’s former location with an entirely new concept and renovated space. Named for its adjacent railroad junction, you can still enjoy that coveted downtown view over drinks with friends—read on to learn about how Wye Hill is working to create an essential gathering place for the community.

What are your backgrounds? Have you always been in the restaurant business?

Our backgrounds make for a surprisingly fitting combination for running a restaurant—Sara has worked in various front and back of house roles for 15 years in the service industry, both here in the Triangle and in New York City. Chris has a 20+ year career in scenic design, special effects and custom building—he can look at any space and not only can he visualize the potential, he can actually make it so. We’ve relied on the expertise of a fantastic team to help us along the way, including Chris’ brother Bryan Borreson, bar and venue owner based in Salt Lake City, Max Trujillo for operational consulting, MRC for branding and Chefs Bobby McFarland and Kyle Fletcher for developing and executing our vision for the menu. All have helped bring Wye Hill Kitchen + Brewing to life.

You’re opening up in an iconic spot in downtown. What’s your vision for the space?

This is a very cool building—it was originally built in the late 1940s and first opened as home to the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company in 1949. At the time, it was a very modern design for the city. We wanted to preserve the unique character of the space while giving it a fresh look. Raleigh has always loved this patio, and we wanted to enhance the space to allow for easy gathering where all are welcome, whether you’re just looking for a quick beer with a friend or you’re celebrating a special occasion with loved ones. We’ve designed and built new hi-top tables where people can either sit or stand, and we’ve added a drink rail to the space where folks can casually drop by and enjoy the view. Additionally, we’ve adjusted the interior to add a lounge and more accessible seating for our guests.

We picked the name “Wye Hill” because of the Wye railroad junction that protects the incredible view from the patio. A Wye is where trains change direction, but it’s also a central meeting hub where different people gather to hop on the next leg of their journey. Our vision is for this space to be one of the most notable gathering spots for the community to enjoy and feel comfortable creating new memories here, all the while serving incredible fare. In the future, we hope Raleigh will join us not only for the spectacular view, but also because of our delicious offerings.

What’s your approach to brewing that sets you apart from other brewers?

We have an on-site small batch brewery with brewer Brad Wynn at the helm. We’ll be offering seasonally rotating taps with a focus on local ingredients whenever possible. We’ve got a few exciting things on tap that are perfect for patio season, like our Mango Hefeweizen.

What can we expect along with fantastic views of downtown? Any standout menu items?

Our guests can expect absolutely exceptional chef-driven bar food that is considerate of a more inclusive array of dietary choices. Our menu combines smaller shareable plates with satiating entrees. We’ve most certainly got some fabulous and indulgent items on the menu, like our “Wye Hill” burger with fried pickled okra and our house-made pub cheese and bacon, but we’ve also got an entirely vegan menu dedicated towards our plant based friends that includes selections like snap peas with toasted hazelnuts, whipped tahini and mint.

Will you be hosting any special events? What’s in the future for Wye Hill?

Absolutely! Many special memories were made here over the past decade, and we intend to keep up the tradition. Birthday parties, engagement parties, pop up events, retirement parties, even bachelor/bachelorette parties—we’re so excited to offer the best view in Raleigh to compliment any special occasion.

As far as what’s in store? We will spend the next year focusing on our people, our plates and our pours to make sure we’re delivering the space Raleigh has been asking for.