Michaela Dockery wants you to feel at home at Hen House Wine Bar, a new restaurant slated to open at the end of January at 679 South Mendenhall Road.
And she means literally at home.
The 2,700-square-foot restaurant, which she owns with her husband, Dr. Dee Dockery, is "an extension of our living room," Michaela says. "We love to host. We love to cook for our friends and family. I love to wine them, put drinks in their hands. And this is an extension of what we do at home.
- Courtesy Hen House Wine Bar
- Dee and Michaela Dockery
"It's an experience more than anything. You're walking in a place where you're going to be well taken care of, wined and dined. You feel that intimate experience where you are the focus when you walk in. The space is upscale, but we wanted a relaxed environment. And that's what you're getting. You're getting top food and drinks, but you're getting them in a relaxed environment."
The restaurant is furnished with couches, comfortable chairs, and low coffee tables.
Describing the Bubble Room, a special room for before- or after-dinner drinks or special occasions, Michaela says, "When I walk into that room it feels like I am in my own 'girl cave.' It's just really moody."
Instead of "stock the bar," Michaela asked guests to "stock the wall" in the Bubble Room. "Friends and family have been bringing prints to put on that wall."
The Bubble Room backs up to the wine cellar, so that wall, which is glass, is dubbed the Sparkling Wall, because guests can see the labels on the champagne bottles.
- Courtesy Hen House Wine Bar
On another wall hangs a floral design by Anna Katherine Colomb of TCB Co. "I told her I love rainbows. I love muted colors. I love all-natural, organic outdoor materials. So she created this stunning kind of muted rainbow of dried flowers and leaves and branches on that wall."
Michaela and Dee enlarged the kitchen to accommodate the growing menu. "I basically know everybody at Home Depot by now."
The restaurant, manned by executive chef Matthew Schweizer, will serve a full menu. "When we first decided to do this, we were only going to have cheese boards, charcuterie, dessert, things like that."
Now, she says, "Me being from California and my husband, Dee, growing up here, I wanted to marry the two backgrounds. So we have a lot of a Southern California type of vibe with our food and kind of elevated Southern. And it's really married beautifully."
Friends and family have raved about their shrimp and grits. "I've eaten shrimp and grits in about every spot in New Orleans and nothing has topped what Matt has done. I dream about it."
Their signature Hen House chicken sandwich is another favorite. "It's a really nice-sized piece of brined chicken served on brioche."
Schweizer's white sauce tops the chicken. "It's a pretty big meal in itself and it's absolutely delicious."
The wine cellar will include Flocking Fabulous rosé, sauvignon blanc, and a red blend. Michaela collaborated on the wines with a California winemaker.
Bartender Tony Nguyen created a variety of cocktails, including the Hound Dog, a bourbon drink he describes as "a boozy whiskey-forward cocktail that is slightly nutty with orange and soft caramel notes."
Nguyen created a special cocktail as a surprise for Dee, who is an interventional spine physician at Campbell Clinic. Nguyen describes the drink as "an Amaro-forward cocktail with slight apple notes and a little salinity on the palate and faint licorice notes that dance with bright lemon aromas on the nose."
The drink, Coach Rex, was named after Dee's dad, the late Memphis State University football coach Rex Dockery.
Hen House Wine Bar was slated to open in October, but the date had to be pushed back because of COVID-19 restrictions.
Michaela can't wait for food and drink lovers to roost at Hen House Wine Bar. "I feel like a zombie, but it's good. That means we're working hard."