Skip to main content

Mountain Home Magazine

WMC North Jazzes Up Downtown

May 01, 2024 09:00AM ● By Lilace Mellin Guignard

“We like to be a nook, a hideaway,” Kaylen Knox says from behind the counter where he shakes a French martini into existence. WMC North opened in August of 2022 at 223 West Water Street in Elmira. The name is a nod to the Williamsburg Music Center, a black-owned jazz venue in Brooklyn founded in 1981 by Gerry Eastman that fosters diversity in both clientele and music.

Outside at night, lights trained on the second story turn the window blue, then green, then blue, making walkers look up. The downstairs is narrow and deep, with the bar near the front door. Past that, the room opens into a small area with tables and a stage that sometimes has a couch below the large window facing the river, and  sometimes holds musicians. Upstairs a stage in front of the glass wall holds larger bands, with the whole floor dedicated to couches and high tops.

Kaylen claims he’s just the bartender, but that’s not true. Like his mother, Susan Knox, he is a Le Corden Bleu-trained chef. Susan says her son is the genius behind it all. But that’s not the whole truth either. They agree the credit belongs to Susan’s father, Jesse Knox, who worked for fifty-seven years at some of the best Elmira restaurants before he died in 2007. The Elmira Center for Cultural Advancement created a short documentary, Jesse Knox’s Story, which can be viewed at “He is the foundation of why we’re here doing what we’re doing,” Kaylen says. “Elmira is a rebounding community with amazing people and cultural diversity. We’ve learned so many new stories from people that come in who worked with him or ate his food. He was the first visionary chef we ever knew.”

The food lives up to their lineage. An iPad digital menu boasts fresh vegetables and seafood pairings, like lobster pasta and filet mignon with grilled shrimp, as well as catfish and chicken fried steak sandwiches. Pork chops, lamb chimichurri, and cauliflower steak round out the small but mighty offerings one night. When plates go by, en route to the lucky table, you can’t help but sigh.

Saturday nights they have bands upstairs. The music genres include jazz, R&B, soul, funk, and even country. “Just not rap,” Kaylen adds. Friday evenings there’s a solo piano player downstairs and later karaoke, which tends to be different from other places. “Less bubblegum stuff,” he explains. “Some of our best singers are in their seventies.”

“We are a bar that serves food,” Kaylen says frequently in his deep voice, meaning that happy patrons come to relax with friends, have a few drinks, listen to music, and, while there, eat amazing food. It’s not a restaurant with a large wait staff and cooks. If lots of folks have put in their orders before you, you may be there a while.

That’s not a bad thing.

WMC North is open Wednesday and Thursday from 5 p.m. to midnight and Friday and Saturday from 3 p.m. to midnight. Find them on Facebook or call (607) 846-3935.

Explore Wellsboro, Fall/Winter 2023-2024
Experience Bradford County 2023
#ExploreCorning 2023