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Yonder by Commonwealth will bring Red River Gorge to Covington

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Posted at 6:00 AM, Jun 19, 2019

COVINGTON, Ky. — Tess and Chris Burns love escaping to places like Red River Gorge in eastern Kentucky when they need to unwind.

"Chris and I are huge nature lovers,” Tess said on a recent sunny afternoon. "When we do have time off, that’s where you’ll find us.”

“Time off,” though, has been hard for the Burnses to find since 2016, when they opened Commonwealth Bistro at 621 Main St. in Covington. Tess manages the bistro’s day-to-day operations while Chris oversees the farm-to-table kitchen as executive chef.

RELATED: After years of work, Commonwealth Bistro is ready to serve Covington diners

Dinner reservations fill quickly and there is usually a wait time for Sunday brunch, Tess said.

“We’ve been sending people to one of the lovely, neighboring establishments for a cocktail,” she added.

Several months ago, Commonwealth's popularity prompted the Burnses to consider how they could add more seating. The two-story bistro currently seats 80 inside and another 50 on its 1,200-square-foot seasonal rooftop deck.

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"As you may know, in a restaurant you have to use every square foot,” Tess said. “That’s when we sat down and came up with some resources to create Yonder.”

When Yonder by Commonwealth opens in a previously unused rooftop space on June 22, it will bring more than just 36 additional seats to Commonwealth.

“We knew we wanted to have a slightly separate experience,” Chris said. "We wanted this to be its own space.”

Yonder will feature its own bar that will serve as many mocktails as cocktails and a unique menu of small plates that will change each week.

“Sometimes, they (local farmers) bring in really exciting stuff, and this gives us the opportunity to play with it,” Tess said.

Initial food offerings likely will include a pimiento cheese spread, blue spruce tip soft-serve ice cream and hot smoked beef jerky, Chris said. Bar offerings will include red and white wine and rosé, along with craft beers and seasonal alcoholic and spirit-free cocktails.

Guests can enjoy those drinks and light bites in a communal area that harkens back to the great outdoors.

"Part of it was inspired by trips to Red River Gorge and that feeling you get when you drive down on a Friday … and you can finally relax and take that breath,” Tess said of Yonder.

Chris hopes Yonder’s physical space, which he had a hand in building, reminds people of a state park. To that end, he and an uncle clad Yonder’s shelter roof and walls in cedar.

"When a breeze kicks through and the vents pick up, you can smell a little bit of the cedar,” he said.

The Burnses also decorated Yonder with rustic chairs and tables, a cushioned bench that lines one wall, basket seats hung from the ceiling and a living vegetation wall. They even installed a separate entrance for guests who don’t want to walk through Commonwealth to get to Yonder.

"So, if you just want to go to Yonder and you’re kind of in the know, you can come right on up the back,” Chris said. "It’s kind of like your own little secret.”

Yonder initially will be open Friday and Saturday evenings. It also will be open during Commonwealth's Sunday brunch so people can enjoy a drink as they wait for a table.

The Burnses are already thinking about how they can heat Yonder in order to keep it open longer into the fall. They also plan to rent the space out and will tweak its hours based on customer demand.

“I think that will be organic,” Chris said. “You build the space and see where it goes."